Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Short breaks programme for children with SEND to be expanded

The short breaks innovation programme, which provides a range of activities for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) is to be extended to a further seven local authorities.

The programme, which is backed by funding of £30 million, aims to to help improve the health, education and wellbeing outcomes of children with SEND. Activities include cooking classes, theatre trips and craft workshops.

It also provides an opportunity to develop social skills and friendships, whilst offering parents a break from caring responsibilities.

The Department of Educations say that authorities will be provided with up to £1.5 million each to deliver and fund new activities and experiences for children and young people with SEND, which would otherwise be inaccessible. The first and second years of funding have helped pilot new approaches to build a body of evidence to inform practice nationally.

Short breaks are part of a continuum of services which support children in need and their families. They include the provision of day, evening, overnight and weekend activities for the child or young person, and can take place in the child’s own home, the home of an approved carer, or in a residential or community setting.

The Disabled Children’s Partnership says that breaks are an essential part of the support needed by the whole family as they provide much-needed time off for the carer to rest and focus on other activities and family members. They also allow those they care for to spend time with others and take part in different activities.

It said that research shows that 24% of parent carers of disabled children provide over 100 hours of care every week (the equivalent of three full-time jobs). 56% care over 35 hours a week. Many do this without a break.

Also 74% of parents of children with life-limiting conditions rated short breaks as having a positive effect on their relationships.

Supported internships for students with SEND

The Department of Education also announced that it is widening the eligibility of the supported internships programme. The work-based study programme for young people aged 16 to 24 is currently for those who have an education, health and care plan (EHC), and aims to provide support during the transition from education into paid employment. Twelve local authorities are taking part in the pilot of the programme, supporting those who do not have an EHCP but require extra support to gain employment.

The supported internships pilot builds on the current £18 million investment in supported internships, which aims to develop capacity in the system to double the number of supported internships per year to 4,500 by 2025.

Children and Families Minister David Johnston said: “We are going further than ever to reform the special educational needs and disabilities system through the SEND and AP improvement plan, addressing a range of issues that families come up against.

“We’re building on that work to strengthen outcomes for young people with SEND, from enhanced data gathering to shape future services and short breaks, to helping young people transition from education to employment to ensure they have the best life chances.”

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