short break for you and your child

Short breaks are a vital part of any support package for families, they benefit both the young person and the parents and carers. Young people get to make new friends and have fun in a safe and secure environment. Parents and carers get to have a break and think about themselves for a while.

Short breaks can also help prepare you as a family for your child’s transition to adulthood, when they might be ready to move out of the family home and live a little more independently.

But, back to the beginning, how do you access those all-important short breaks? Where do you look for the information you need? My Family, Our Needs has teamed up with Sense to bring you 5 top tips to getting the short break you all deserve.

Research conducted by the University of Chester for Sense, shows that 83% of carers felt better able to cope following a short break, and 100% stated that the short break holiday was the most significant respite they get from caring.

Short breaks could be during the day or evening, overnight, at the weekend or even longer planned holidays away from home.

Parents regularly say how important it is to them, to know that their children are safe and having an amazing time on short breaks, whilst also enjoying the opportunity themselves to relax, recharge their batteries and spend time with their other children, family member or friends.

How can I access a short break?

Short breaks are legally required to be provided as a service for families with disabled children under a number of laws. And, although all local authorities have a duty and a budget to provide these, this budget may not be ring-fenced (set aside specifically to be spent on short breaks). This may lead to a variation in services provided by councils in different areas.

Contact your local authority to find out what short breaks they provide, how you may be able to access one, whether your family will need to be assessed, or whether they have any specific eligibility criteria that families need to meet.

Families who have a personal budget through their local authority, can directly approach providers to ask for short breaks provision which is designed around the specific needs of their child. This useful as parents often struggle to find short break providers who were able to cater for children and young people with complex needs leaving the family struggling to access suitable respite support.

Families can also pool their budgets with other like-minded families. This means they might be able to design and purchase a short break provision of their own which better meets their needs. This approach may benefit children and young people with more complex or individual needs as families are not constrained according to the types of short breaks their local authority offers.

For families funding their short break themselves, they have the freedom to choose any provider who meets their requirements.

5 top tips for finding the best short break:

  1. Consider what you and your child want from a short break. Are you looking for something for a few hours a week, a couple of overnights a month or for something less often but for longer? Does your child want a home away from home, a group setting or an adventure? What sort of support and care will the provider need to offer?  How far are you willing to travel? What is your deal breaker? This could be a ceiling track hoist, nursing care, or a swimming pool – asking these sorts of questions before you start the process will help you get the break you and your child really need and want.
  1. Get in touch with your social worker to find out what short breaks are available in your area. If you don’t have a social worker, or would like to ask directly, call or email the relevant team in your local authority. There are two online documents that will help you in your search: the ‘local offer’ and the ‘short breaks statement’. Every local authority has to create these documents and they will outline your entitlement. Many location authorities will have a ‘core offer’, which is the minimum number of hours you are entitled to receive. Find out the process and criteria for accessing short breaks in your area; in some areas you can go directly to providers and in others, through a short breaks coordinator or your social worker.
  1. Ask for recommendations from other families. Contact your local disabled children’s parents group or forum (they may even have online forums) or ask at school for ideas and tips on the best providers.
  1. If you’re struggling to access appropriate provision, go back to your local authority. If your child has complex needs, you may struggle to find short break providers who are able to cater for them, ask your local authority for help. You have the right ask for an assessment or a re-assessment from the disabled children’s social work team; this may open up access to specialist services, better able to cater for you.
  1. Shop around. Ask to contact and visit your top providers (how this works will be dependent on where you live – in some areas you may be able to choose from a number of short breaks providers and in others you may be referred to one or two). Find out about what they offer. Remember the questions you thought about at the beginning, now is the time to consider these against what’s available to you.

Useful Links:


A guide covering how local authorities should provide short break care for carers and children.


A national charity that supports people who are deafblind, have sensory impairments or complex needs, to enjoy more independent lives.  Their expertise in supporting individuals with communication needs benefits people of all ages, as well as their families and carers.  They provide information and advice, offer a wide range of flexible services and campaign passionately for the rights of the people we serve.