Short breaks statement - about short breaks

A short break is any break that you get from caring for your child. It could be for just a couple of hours, or a whole day, or a few days.

When we asked them, some parents said the phrase 'short break' was confusing because that is what they would call going away for a holiday. Instead, they said a short break was more like what they would call 'me time' – a chance to do things they want to do without having to look out for their child all the time.

Examples of childcare are when your child is at nursery or with a childminder. The government provides funding for all 3 to 4 year olds to have 15 hours a week childcare. Some 2 year olds, including those with Disability Living Allowance, also qualify for up to 15 hours a week of free childcare. Read more about free childcare for 2 year olds.

Short breaks are aimed at families with a disabled child. This is because of the extra effort and stress that being the parent of a disabled child can bring.

The Children Act of 1989 says that a disabled child is: 'A child/young person between 0 and 18 years, who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long term adverse effect on their ability to perform normal day to day activities'.

Some disabled children go to activities with other children such as Beavers or Brownies, or to their local council summer play scheme, and do not need any extra help provided. Short Breaks are for those disabled children who need extra support to be able to join in with other children. A small number of disabled children need very specialist kinds of short breaks.

We also have some short break services for carers of disabled adults.

Disabled Children's Service eligibility criteria

Referral to our Disabled Children's Services may be made for any disabled child or young person:

  • who is under 18 years old
  • who is resident within Kent County Council boundaries
  • whose disability is permanent or long term and meets at least one of the following criteria:
  • a severe and profound learning, physical or sensory disability
  • complex medical needs or severe and profound long term condition expected to disable the child for more than one year
  • severe communication disabilities or severe behavioural difficulties related to the child's disability (e.g. Autistic Spectrum Disorder)
  • severe global developmental delay

The criteria do not include children with:

  • a disability or disabilities that is not severe
  • behavioural problems due to social/environmental factors (i.e. not associated to a disability)
  • a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder unless in conjunction with a severe learning, physical or communication disability
  • mental health needs alone a diagnosis of specific learning difficulty alone, e.g. Dyslexia where the primary need is assessed as being related to social factors, e.g. parenting difficulties, difficulties with siblings

Where the young person is approaching adulthood, consultation will usually take place between our Specialist Children's Services and Adult Social Services and it may be agreed that a joint assessment would be appropriate in such circumstances.

Read more about how to get social care help from us.

Types of short breaks in Kent include:

  • weekend clubs during term time
  • school summer holiday clubs
  • overnight stays (with an approved foster carer or in a residential unit)
  • daytime stays (with an approved foster carer or in a residential unit)
  • support in the home.

Some families who are eligible choose to have a direct payment instead of a service provided by us.

The Equality Act 2010 states that nobody should be discriminated against or treated unfavourably because of their disability. It also requires organisations to make reasonable adjustments to make sure that disabled people can use their services.

This law applies to places like leisure centres, cinemas, and organisations like the Scouts and Girl Guides. These activities are sometimes called 'universal services' because they are routinely available to all children, young people and their families. They also include:

Support to use services

Some services are happy to accept disabled people, but to get the most out of their time there some children and young people may need additional support over and above that given to all children. This could be because they need help with using the toilet, or with their behaviour. Some children just need someone to go along with them for the first few times to help the service to understand how to include them successfully.

Another form of support is mentoring. An example of this is the Young Kent Me2 scheme, which brings together disabled young people aged 13 to 19 years with other young people who act as mentors (aged 15 to 19 years). The mentors are trained to give them the confidence, knowledge and skills they need. Disabled young people are then matched with a mentor who will meet with them one night per week for up to 20 weeks to support them.

Emma's story

Emma is a 9 year old who has Down's syndrome and a moderate learning disability. She attends a mainstream school with support from a learning support assistant. She has no difficulty with her personal care needs, such as going to the toilet, but sometimes needs to be reminded. Emma has a communication book which explains that she finds it easier to understand instructions in picture format.

Emma's local council run a summer play scheme every year for 5 to 11 year olds, and Emma wanted to attend. Before the play scheme started, all the play workers attended a training course about how to include disabled children. Because the organiser knew that Emma wanted to come, the training course specifically covered Down's syndrome.

On the first morning Emma was a bit anxious about going, but as soon as she arrived a play worker welcomed her and introduced her to the other children, and her dad left. Emma made friends with another girl who goes to Emma's school, and when her dad picked her up in the afternoon she told him about all the things she had done in the day and that she wanted to go again the next day.

Matthew's story

Matthew is 9 years old and lives with his grandparents and younger sister. He attends the local mainstream primary school. He is a chatty, friendly and caring little boy and has Asperger's Syndrome. His behaviour at school is sometimes challenging and he has difficulty with both verbal and non-verbal communication. Matthew has difficulty making friends and he gets upset about this. Matthew's grandparents have no time for themselves as all their energy goes into bringing up their grandchildren.

Dee is 16 years old and studying for her AS levels. Dee decided to volunteer with the buddying project as she wanted to develop and learn new skills which she can use in the future, and was matched as a buddy for Matthew.

After a couple of home visits, playing board games and getting to know each other, Dee went along with Matthew to the local cub pack. Matthew coped really well in the first few weeks being supported by Dee. He joined in with the activities, initiated conversations with other children that he recognised from his school, and started to build positive relationships with the leaders. When Dee went to collect him Matthew would be standing at his bedroom window looking out for her, all ready to go.

Some short break activities in Kent are specifically aimed at meeting the needs of disabled children and young people. These are sometimes called targeted services.

This group of services includes play schemes and clubs run by charities or volunteers. We contribute funding to some of these groups.

You don't need a social worker to refer your child to these services - you can approach them directly. However, they may have their own criteria that you will have to meet.

Search for short break activities funded by us.

When we consulted with parents, they told us that they wanted us to spend some of our budget on funding services like these.

We listened to what you told us, and in addition to the groups mentioned above we have also funded an organisation called IMAGO (Voluntary Action within Kent) to provide clubs across the county.

Danny's story

"My son Danny has Autistic Spectrum Disorder and is now 14 years old. He has been coming along to the Weekend Fun Club for almost two years, and it is the highlight of his month.

Danny is reasonably sociable, and he enjoys new experiences, but needs things explained to him in simple terms. He has a brother and sister who are able to go to Scout and Brownie events, and it is lovely for him to have something that he can go away to in his own right. As he is growing older he particularly enjoys being able to attend events and activities without needing his parents to go along with him, and he has made some friends at the Fun Club, whom he looks forward to meeting up with.

His confidence has grown enormously; he was nervous the first time he went along; now that he knows other children and the volunteers, he looks forward to going to the club each time. Increasingly he is telling us about what he has been up to on his weekends away, and it is great that he has the opportunity to spend a night away from home. He has coped well with looking after himself and I have no worries now when he goes off on a Fun Club weekend.

Danny has learned new skills and had some really special experiences; he likes his food and really enjoyed preparing his own dinner at Kench Hill. He loved the barbecues at Rippledown and has had a lot of fun with the outdoor activities.

Weekend Fun Club has given Danny a whole new dimension to his life; he can go away like other children of his age, and is developing a sense of independence from us as his parents. He really loves going and we very much appreciate how it is helping him develop."

There are a small number of disabled children and young people who have needs that require a lot of support to be able to have a short break. These might be children with complex health needs, or behaviours that challenge services. Activities for these children are sometimes called specialist services.

They are:

  • overnight stays in a residential unit
  • short stays with an approved foster carer
  • specialist school holiday play schemes
  • term time fun clubs
  • health home sitting service
  • direct payments (a way of funding families to make their own short break arrangements)
  • personal health budgets (like a direct payment, but for meeting health related needs).

To get any of these kinds of services you will require an assessment of need by a social worker or health care professional.

If the assessment shows that this is the right kind of service for your family, you will then need to be referred by a professional.

Charlotte's story

Charlotte is a 14 year old with a severe learning disability. She also has epilepsy. Charlotte has very little verbal communication. She also has behaviours that are challenging. Charlotte attends a special school. She needs active support with all her personal care needs such as going to the toilet and feeding herself. She also has difficulty sleeping more than two hours at a time which can be exhausting for parents.

Charlotte has a younger sister (Jane). Her mum provides all her care and sometimes feels guilty that Jane doesn't get as much attention as she needs because of the demands of looking after Charlotte at home.

Charlotte's teacher told her mum about a special resource centre run by us where children can stay overnight for a couple of days to give their parents a break. Her mum phoned the council and a referral was made to Specialist Children's Services.

A social worker from our service for disabled children came to see Charlotte and her family to assess her needs. It was arranged for Charlotte to spend a weekend every other month from Friday after school to Monday morning at the resource centre. Charlotte has her own room and the other five young people staying that weekend are all teenagers like her. Her sister Jane now has some special time with her Mum while Charlotte is there.

Read the rest of the short breaks statement