Short breaks statement – how we can help you
You have told us that having a regular break from caring helps you to 'recharge your batteries'. You said that it also gives you time to spend with any other children you have, who sometimes miss out because of the demands of their disabled brother or sister.
There is a lot of evidence that shows that families with a disabled child are more likely to break up, and that this is often caused by the demands of caring for their child.
Short breaks can help to strengthen the resilience of families, giving them the strength to get through the more difficult times and to keep going together as a family.
We are committed to supporting vulnerable families and keeping them out of crisis, and children out of local authority care.
Like all children, disabled children need to be with other children to make new friends, play and have fun. This helps them develop their social skills – learning how to behave in a group with other children that is not as formal as when they are at school. It can also support their independence.
It also gives children the chance to try new activities, and by doing so to discover their potential. When we fund short breaks, we aim to ensure that children have a positive experience that they enjoy and that they will want to come back again.
The kinds of activities that we commission range from traditional arts and crafts to sailing and horse riding.
You will be expected to pay a small charge for activities like play schemes and clubs, in the same way that all families do. The charge does not cover the full cost of providing the activity.
In the past, some families have booked a place on a short break and then their child has not turned up on the day. This is understandable if a child is unwell, but if there is no valid reason this may mean another child who could have attended is denied a place. It also means that money has been used to employ staff who are not needed, but still have to be paid.
Parents have told us that this is not a good use of the limited funding available to the council, and not fair on other children who could have attended but were unable to because the activity was fully booked. For this reason, families are expected to pay the charge at the same time as they book a place.
Families are responsible for getting their child to and from an activity. Providing transport is very expensive, and we think that the money is better spent on providing as many short breaks as possible within the budget.
The size of Kent and the distances involved mean that if transport were to be provided, the first children to be collected would have to spend a long time sitting in a minibus or coach before they arrived at the destination. This would not be fair on them.
We have organised our short breaks to try and ensure that activities are as local as possible, to minimise travelling times and cost.
Parents have told us that they are sometimes reluctant to go out together as a family because they can face negative attitudes from other people. They have also said that it is helpful to meet with other families in the same situation and talk through common issues.
We have listened to this, and used some of our budget to fund days out for whole families.