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Breaks and holidays are really important for families with a disabled child. These can be both holidays to enjoy as a family or short breaks which provide a moment of respite for you and a chance for your child to experience new things. Here we outline the different types of breaks available and where to find them.

Short breaks

Short breaks form part of the spectrum of services which support children and families which need them. They are essential for letting disabled children have fun and experience new things with people their own age. Similarly, it allows their parents to take a break from the pressures of care.

Short breaks can be provided by both private and voluntary sector organisations, and can include:

  • Care at home.
  • Daycare – which includes nurseries, playgroups, out of school and weekend clubs and, during school holidays, access to play schemes.
  • Overnight short breaks.
  • Residential breaks.

They can take place in the family home, the home of a registered carer or in a residential or community setting.

Accessing short breaks

Short breaks funding is given to each child in the form of a personal budget. The hours in a personal budget are allocated based on either:

  • A self-assessment;
  • OR through a needs assessment conducted by your local authorities social care team.

The best place to start is by speaking to your local authority about which services are available in your area. Both the services themselves and the Local Offer team should be able to advise on how to fill out your self-assessment, or what to expect from a full needs assessment.

Some short break schemes are classified as ‘Universal’. Universal Short Breaks are available to all children (no assessment is needed to access them). To find out if there are any Universal Short Break schemes available near you, you will need to speak to your local authority.

Local Offer

Short breaks are now handled by what’s called the Local Offer, these are run by your local authority. Local Offers are meant to provide clear, up-to-date and detailed information on what provision and services are available in your area, for children and young people with SEND and their families.

Your Local Offer will:

  • Provide information about education, health and care services.
  • Offer information about leisure activities and support groups.
  • Maintain a single source for all the information.
  • Be clear, comprehensive and accessible.
  • Review service provision regularly to make it more responsive to local needs.

When it comes to breaks, local authorities have a duty to provide short break services and make it clear how families can access these. You can find your Local Offer details in our Directory.

Legal basis for short breaks

There can be a lot of confusion around the funding, commissioning and provision of short breaks for disabled young people and their families. It can seem complicated but, put simply, legal duties require local authorities to:

  • Take into account a range of considerations in making strategic decisions about the commissioning and funding of short breaks.
  • Assess the needs of any disabled child whose family want or need services above the level available locally without an assessment.
  • Provide short breaks to children where an assessment shows that they are necessary to meet their needs, taking account of the family context.

You can read more about the legal obligations on local authorities and the NHS on the GOV.UK website.


There are lots of organisations that can help families with a disabled child take a holiday. Some provide lost cost holidays and some provide grants to allow families to enjoy a holiday abroad together. Some organisations only offer their services to families who live locally to them, or through a referral from a professional supporting a family, above all the best way to find out who can help you is to do some research.

If you have a child with special requirements, it is advisable to sit down and make a list of what the key ingredients are for meeting your family’s travel and holiday needs. These will differ widely according to the ages and size of your family and the specific needs of your child.

Our article: Take a break: Holidays for children with disabilities and their families contains a helpful list to get you started, it also gives some ideas about:

  • The types of holiday available.
  • Companies that can help you find the right holiday.
  • Organisations who can help you with the financial side.

Our article Holidays for disabled children – flying with disabled children also has a wealth of useful information.

Our Directory lists companies that specialise in accessible and supported holidays, as well as companies that can help with the travel and insurance aspects.

Grants for holidays

Paying for a family holiday is not always easy, especially when there are extra expenses like hiring special equipment. However, there are organisations that may be able to help with financial support.

The Family Fund is an organisation that provides grants for disabled children’s needs, including holiday grants and travel insurance. They consider grants towards Butlin’s trips as well as family breaks in the UK and Europe.

Happy Days Charity take applications from families who have:

  • Children with special educational needs;
  • OR who have a life-limiting condition aged between 3 and 17.

They accept applications from parents, guardians, grandparents, GPs, consultants, nurses or social workers.

See Short Breaks Articles

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