A while ago, and this is what prompted me to contacting BRITAX (which, in turn, led to me becoming a Mumbassador), I wanted to find out more about car seats for children with additional needs like Eilidh. Although I did all the research, I never did get round to getting her a new car seat...
I contacted BRITAX and Mark Bennett, Car Seat Safety Expert at BRITAX, sent some answers to my questions:
Does BRITAX manufacture a special needs car seat? If so, can you tell me about it?
We do make a child seat - the Traveller plus (£599.50) for children with special needs but also some of our ERWF models (from around £220) are used depending on the child’s particular requirements. It is generally best to obtain these through specialist retailers so that they can help make the right selection for the individual case. One such retailer is the In Car Safety Centre at Milton Keynes, Belfast, or Essex (tel: 01908 220909 web: www.incarsafetycentre.co.uk).
When asking forums on social media sites, the one question that everyone asked is "why are car seats so expensive?". Why are special needs car seats so expensive?
The cost of a child seat will be generally relative to the amount of engineering, test procedures, performance requirements, and the quality of the materials used. On a personal view, I don’t really think that they are expensive when you compare them to what we all spend during our child’s first years on things that do not have an effect on our child’s safety & wellbeing. I am sure that there are many comparisons that could be made quite easily. We do have to remember that in an accident we need the child seat to perform well and protect our child under very adverse conditions.
In the case of Special Needs seats, the cost is also affected by the low volume when compared to our other child seat products. The weight and size is an issue in terms of materials and strength with an extended weight range all have influencing implications on the final price.
Considering car seats are required by law, is it fair that families with children who have additional needs are discriminated against when it comes to the cost of car seats?
As market leader and experts in the field of the safety of children travelling in cars, we felt it important to provide a child seat option in this category. We do appreciate the cost implications and it would be all too easy to focus only on high volume product lines but that is not the BRITAX RÖMER way. We understand the need for all children to have access to good performance child seat products and this is one of the reasons that we make sure that the Traveller plus is tested and approved to European Standard ECE R44. Nevertheless, it is of any help, I understand from one of the specialist retailers that there are schemes available for assisted purchase in some case from various charities.
Do you know of any reason why such car seats are not supplied by wheelchair services/physiotherapy/occupational therapy and instead have to be funded privately?
Unfortunately, I cannot offer a definitive answer to this. Perhaps it is a question that should be directed to these organisations for clarity.
Are special need car seats subjected to the same vigorous safety testing?
This is not a legal requirement for this category of child seat but at BRITAX RÖMER we ensure that all our products meet very high standards of safety and confirm that the Traveller plus is fully tested and approved to the European Standard ECE R44
The real issue is this: although I understand that car seats for those with additional needs - like every piece of equipment needed - are produced in low volume, I feel that, as the seats are required by law and for safety purposes, that the additional costs (if not the whole cost) should be absorbed by local authorities or health boards and not by charities or parents. The costs encountered by a family with a child with additional needs are astronomical (Please see Scope: Extra Costs and a PDF "Priced Out") and, contrary to public belief, not everything is handed out on a plate. So who should meet these costs? Every child deserves the right to travel safely.
Since writing this post, our need has changed. With Eilidh growing we are considering her travelling in her wheelchair in the WAV - but that's a whole different story!