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 15-30 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 childcare.

Short breaks are aimed at families with a disabled child 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 can join in on activities for all children such as Beavers or Brownies, or summer fun days run by their local council. This means that their parents can have a break. We commission activities for those children who need extra support, including activities for children who need quite a lot of support. Most of these activities are open to families without having to go through a social worker.

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

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.

You can access the first 2 of these types of short breaks directly. A social worker may suggest the following 3 short breaks in their assessment.

Some families whose child’s needs are severe and profound, and have been assessed as needing a break from caring, may choose to have a direct payment instead of a service provided by us.

A direct payment enables families to arrange and pay for the type of short break support that is best for them. For example, some families use a direct payment to employ a personal assistant to give them some ‘time out’ from caring responsibilities. For these families we have arranged support to help with budgeting and employment issues. For children and for young people transitioning to adulthood this support is provided by We Are Beams.

For adults, a Kent County Council internal team provides this service.

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. 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 1 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.

Parents have told us that:

  • they need most help during school holidays, especially towards the end of the summer holiday
  • regular club activities during term time would also help
  • they want short break services they can feel confident in
  • short break services need to be affordable
  • they would like to be able to refer directly themselves.

We have made grants available to a range of organisations that contribute to an affordable programme of activities that offer regular short breaks across the year, with a greater number of hours provided during the summer holidays.

The activities are based at local venues that are accessible and safe. We want children to become familiar with their local communities and to develop relationships within them. This could be something as simple as going with other children to the local shops, or to have lunch somewhere.

We have arranged for organisations who provide the activities to take a referral directly from parents. This means you do not have to go through a social worker for most types of short breaks.

There are some kinds of short breaks that will need to be arranged by a social worker. This is because we want to make sure that carers of children living with the most complex disabilities do not miss out on a short break.

Our Disabled Children and Young People Service is for children and young people from birth up to 25 years of age.  You can make a referral to this service by:

  • e-mail at
  • telephone: 03000 41 11 11 (Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm) or 03000 41 91 91 (outside of office hours - for emergencies only)
  • text relay: 18001 03000 41 11 11

We have social workers whose job it is to assess the needs of children and young people and where appropriate arrange a short break.

This could be, depending on need, overnight and daytime stays in a residential centre. We have 5 Kent County Council centres across Kent for this purpose. There are also some centres in Kent that are run by other organisations, and we may arrange for your child to stay at one of these.

Short stays with an approved foster carer. We have some foster carers who have the knowledge and skills to care for disabled children.

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 2 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 Kent County Council 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 5 young people staying are all teenagers like her. Her sister Jane now has some special time with her mum while Charlotte is there.

Every disabled child is different. For example, a child may have severe needs in their learning but mild needs for their mobility. We use this tool to help explain the differing levels of capabilities that disabled children may have:






1. Mobility

Able to walk but with some limitation e.g. walks more slowly, unable to run. Young child mobility functioning slightly behind the level expected for age.

Able to walk, but only with aids.  May have wheelchair for intermittent use.  Young child mobility functioning around half of the level expected for age.

Unable to walk, wheelchair user.  May be able to stand/transfer with support.  Able to manoeuvre self at least some of the time in a wheelchair.

Totally dependent on carer for mobility, in wheelchair or buggy and over age 3.

2. Fine Motor

Some difficulty with play, writing or drawing e.g. tremor, unsteadiness, lack of fine control.  Young child functioning slightly behind the level expected for age.

Hand movement only with considerate difficulty or requiring aid or assistance. Young child functioning around half the level expected for age.

Mostly unable to use hands effectively but able to use switch systems e.g. to operate toys, computers, wheelchairs or communication aid.

Unable to operate even simple aids or switch systems.  Totally dependent on others.

3. Personal Care

Slight difficulties with eating, drinking, washing or dressing but manages independently.  Young child functioning slightly behind the level expected for age.

Supervision and/or assistance required for some activities with or without the use of aids.  Young child functioning around two thirds of the level expected for age.

Supervision and/or assistance required for most activities most of the time, bearing in mind the child/young person’s chronological age

Over five and total care required.  No assistance from the child/young person.

4. Continence

Slight difficulties but manages independently.  Over five and regularly wets the bed at night.  Dry by day.

Over eight with occasional day time wetting.  Over five and soils occasionally.  Over eleven with regular night time wetting.  Possibility of improvement with training and support.

Severe learning disability or severe physical disability with continence unlikely to improve with training and support (behaviour may include smearing).

Older child with a severe learning disability or severe physical disability completely dependent on carer to be clean or dry.  No control of either bowel or bladder.

5. Hearing and Vision: (Sensory)

See below

See below

See below

See below

6. Physical Health

Known persistent disease, under control and only occasionally interfering with everyday activities in a minor way.

Intermittent but regular limitation of normal activities.  May interfere with education or development.

Long term severe and significant interference with ‘normal’ activities associated with a physical and/or learning disability, or life-limiting condition which is degenerative.

Unable to take part in any social or education activities.  Total medical/nursing support required.

7. Communication

Delayed language development only.

Delayed and/or disordered language development causing significant difficulty in communication outside the home.  Speech supplemented by signing or communication aid.  Inability to use speech in a socially interactive manner.

None or very little speech used but able to communicate at least basic needs using speech, signing or communication aids, according to chronological age. For example – severe autism with low IQ and severe sensory dysfunction.

Unable to communicate needs by any method.  Unable to use communication aid.

8.  Learning

Pre-school child performance slightly behind that expected for age.  Education assessment recommends differentiated curriculum or individual or small group support to supplement core subjects.  School age child in mainstream.

Pre-school child functions around the level typical of a child who is two thirds of their chronological age. School age child with MLD (mild learning disabilities) and with multiple needs.  Education assessment shows attainment outside expected range of levels for Key Stage on a core subject.

Pre-school child functioning around the level typical of a child who is half their chronological age.

A school age child or YP who has a Severe Learning or Severe Physical Disability whose Educational Assessment shows that the National Curriculum must be significantly modified to support their Learning needs and who is working significantly below expected levels.

Pre-school child functioning around the level typical of a child who is less than one third of their chronological age.

A school age child or YP who has a Severe Learning or Severe Physical Disability whose Educational Assessment shows that the National Curriculum must be totally modified to support their Learning needs and who is working completely below expected levels.

9.  Behavioural and social interaction

Some behaviour difficulties – mild, transient or infrequent.  Can be managed without any special provision.

Behavioural problems severe or frequent enough to require some specialist provision, but not at all the time.

Diagnosed physical and/or severe learning disability that makes it difficult to function within their family or peer group most of the time unless special provision is made.  This does not include children with Autism or ADHD unless accompanied by a severe learning disability.

Diagnosed physical and/or severe learning disability affecting all aspects of the child’s functioning and behaviour that places child and carers at risk.

10.  Consciousness

Occasional daytime seizure, up to one per day.

Some seizures most weeks, day or night.

Many seizures on most days and nights. Development or education adversely affected.

In a coma, or intractable seizures in frequent succession.

Sensory short breaks

We have arranged special activities for children with significant hearing or visual impairment.  These are provided by Kent Deaf Children’s Society and Kent Association for the Blind and Kent County Council Specialist Teaching and Learning Service.