For families of children and young people with SEN and disabilities helpline 01273 772289

short breaks (respite)

Short breaks or respite are all about giving you and the rest of the household a break. This page explains more about who is eligible for short breaks services and how to get them.

dailylife.shortbreaksShort breaks mean allowing someone you trust to look after your child while you go out or spend time with other family members. They might  include care in the home, day care away from the home, residential breaks, family link schemes, holidays, after school clubs and holiday play schemes.

The other benefit of a short break is that it can be a great confidence booster, for you as the carer and for your child. You find out that it is possible to let your child go, and your child finds out that he or she can enjoy life away from the family. Some of us have found that this really pays dividends in the long term, because our children have learned to adapt to new situations and experiences much better than they might have done otherwise.

For more information, read our fact sheet on Short Breaks

It’s a big thing at any time, isn’t it, putting your child in someone else’s care… You feel better about having admitted that things are too much at times. I phoned up Susie’s link family and I said, ‘Look, we really are having a crisis, would you be able to have her for a whole day’, and they said ‘Yes, fine, we’ll have her’. It was so good because then she knew how I felt…

What kinds of short breaks are available?

Realistically, short breaks will only be provided for more severely disabled children. So unless your child has severe learning difficulties or complex needs and behavioural difficulties or physical disabilities, you are unlikely to get any respite care from the council. If your child is more able, you could think about short breaks in terms of childcare, after school clubs, or leisure activities where you can leave your children for a while. See the sections on ‘Childcare’ and ‘After school clubs and holiday play schemes’ further down this page for more detailed information.

Parents who do get more traditional types of respite will find that they are usually given a pick and mix of different types of short break, such as one night’s respite, one day a week at an inclusive play scheme in the holidays, and a befriender once a week. Below we explain the various types of short break available locally.

Short breaks that require an assessment by a social worker
Short breaks without an assessment
Health-related short breaks

After school clubs and holiday play schemes
Private care

Tips for getting a short break

A word of warning: a short break can be hard to get! First you need to recognise you need it and deal with all the difficult emotions that may bring up; then you need to start asking for it. It may begin with just a few hours, but can then lead to longer periods that will give you a wonderful break. Here are a few tips:

  •  Getting a break or respite usually means asking a social worker for an assessment. Put it in writing and keep a copy.
  • Explain how the demands of caring for your child are taking their toll and make it clear that things are difficult.
  • Ask other professionals to support your request by writing to your social worker as well.
  • What’s right for one family may not be right for yours so think about what would work.
  • If you are offered a family-based short break, meet with the family first and spend time agreeing how best to trial things.
  • If you are offered a residential short break, go and visit first when other children are there and ask questions. If you want to, feel free to ask your social worker if they can visit with you.
  • Write down a list of questions beforehand and take this with you to visits or meetings about short break arrangements.
  • Keep an open mind as sometimes first visits don’t go well and often it takes time for children to settle in with new people.
  • If you want something more flexible, think about asking for Direct Payments. We explain more about Direct Payments in the money matters section.

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