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

Short breaks scheme rolled out to thousands more families

The short breaks scheme – which provides support for families with children with SEND to take short breaks – is being rolled out to thousands more families.

Under the scheme, eligible councils receive up to £1 million a year to work with families to develop new experiences for disabled children that would otherwise be inaccessible, as well as covering the costs of providing the activities.

These activities could involve theatre trips, hiking or craft workshops, and they give children with SEND a chance to try something new, while giving families a break from their caring responsibilities.

The plans come following the publication of the SEND alternative provision improvement plan, which set out to ensure all children have access to a high-quality, fulfilling education, no matter where they live.

Various activities have been piloted as part of the scheme

In the first year of the programme (April 2022-23), the government funded seven local authority projects to deliver innovative approaches to short breaks in addition to their normal provision, across the 0-25 age range.

Various activities were piloted in this first year including creating a transition group for children with SEND to develop independent living skills through group activities, which also create friendship circles that carry through into adult life.

These activities have had positive results so far, including improved attendance and behaviour in schools, and a reduction in suspensions. The results will continue to inform a national policy for short breaks which will be rolled out more widely.

Now in its second year, the programme will continue to pilot other activities including sleep-over clubs and film-making workshops to build teamworking skills.

The next councils set to benefit from the scheme are Bristol City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, Camden Council, Derby City Council, Norfolk County Council, Nottingham City, Plymouth City Council, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Southwark Council, Suffolk County Council, Sunderland City Council, Surrey County Council and Wakefield Council.

What are the benefits of short breaks or respite care?

Taking a break from caring allows carers to recharge their batteries, and it allows the person they are for to have some new social interactions and a change of scenery.

This can actually improve the relationship between the carer and the person they care for, even if it is only for a short amount of time.

As Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, Claire Coutinho explains: “Short breaks provide much-needed support to disabled children and their families. They give children opportunities to make friends, learn something new and work towards greater independence, while allowing parents the all-important time they need to recharge.

“We’ve already seen the transformative impact these new approaches to short breaks are having on children and their families, and I am looking forward to continuing this work, extending it to more parts of the country so even more children can benefit.”

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