Short breaks for children with disabilities

Short breaks are a way of giving parents and carers a break from their caring responsibilities. Short breaks can also benefit your child with disabilities.  

The type of short break you may receive will depend on the needs of your child. 

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What are short breaks 

There is a legal duty on all local authorities in England to provide a range of short break services for disabled children and their carers to access. Short breaks can include: 

  • care at home - includes sitting or care attendant schemes which provide someone to sit with or 'mind' your child 

  • daycare away from home - includes nurseries, playgroups, out of school and weekend clubs and, during school holidays, access to playschemes 

  • overnight short breaks - includes an overnight sitting or nursing service if your child needs it 

  • residential breaks - includes residential homes, special units in hospitals and hospices 

  • family link schemes - where your child stays with another family on a regular basis or occasionally 

Short breaks are activities or respite for children or young people with disabilities, special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND).   

They can take place within or away from the child or young person’s home. 

The length of activity time varies, it can vary from a couple of hours to a full day depending on the needs of your child.  This allows your child to spend time with their peers and develop friendships, or increase their independence.  

Parents and carers can also have a break. This is important as you need to look after yourself so you can continue to care and support your child.   

Short breaks can also be for the whole family to enjoy time together.  

How short breaks are commissioned 

Short breaks are for children and young people aged 0-18 with a disability, who need support to access social, play and leisure activities.  

In South Gloucestershire, there are short break opportunities available to all children and young people, regardless of whether they are eligible for social care support.    

Most play schemes, clubs and services can be accessed by contacting the organisations directly. Many have a website where you can find information on booking short breaks. 

There are a small number of services that can only be accessed following a social care assessment, such as overnight short breaks. If your child is receiving social care services, ask your social worker for more information.  

Short breaks are classed as either universal, targeted or specialist. 

These types of services are aimed at families with different levels of need.

Universal services : are for all families whether or not their child is disabled that enable them to take a break from caring for their child, for example, Cubs, Guides, leisure centre playschemes   

Targeted /preventative short break services: these are for families with disabled children who need help accessing services to give them a break from caring for their child - South Gloucestershire fund  a number of providers to provide short breaks to families who can self refer without needing a social worker

Specialist short breaks services: these are for families with disabled children who need more breaks from caring for their child - usually, the child will have had a child in need social care assessment to determine if additional support or direct payment may be required  

Who can access short breaks 

Short breaks are for children and young people aged 0-18 with a disability who need support to access social, play and leisure activities.  

In South Gloucestershire, there are short break opportunities available to all children and young people, regardless of whether they are eligible for social care support.    

Most play schemes, clubs and services can be accessed by contacting the organisations directly. Many have a website where information on booking short breaks can be found. 

There are a small number of services that can only be accessed following a social care assessment, such as overnight short breaks. If your child is receiving social care services, ask your social worker for more information.   

You can find the short breaks available in South Gloucestershire and how to apply in the following article.

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