Short breaks

3 mins read

This advice applies across the UK.

Sometimes families who have disabled children and/or health conditions benefit from a break from their caring responsibilities. Local authorities/trusts now have duties to provide short break services and make clear how families can access them.

In this article

What are short breaks?

Short breaks are a way of getting a break from your caring responsibilities.

Short breaks are an opportunity to recharge batteries, spend time with others or pursue a particular interest. They can also allow your child to have a change of scene, try different experiences, have fun and make friends.

“I don’t always know what Jacob has been up to at the club but as he says, ‘The Yard is my space, my business.’ I can only agree.”

Short breaks can include:

Remember: taking a break from caring for your child is not an admission of failure or a way of saying you don’t care.

Getting a short break

Speak to your local authority (in England, Scotland and Wales) or health and social care trust (in Northern Ireland) about getting short breaks services.

The main route involves undergoing an assessment of your child and family’s needs by social services (but see below for information about universal short breaks).

If your family is eligible, the local authority/trust might be able to organise short breaks for you, or you can use direct payments to arrange short breaks.

“For me taking a break is the difference between sinking and surviving. It makes me sing out loud, I’m so happy – I look forward to it, I enjoy it, I bask in it afterwards!

Universal short breaks

Some short break schemes may be described as ‘universal’, which means they are available to all children and you don’t need an assessment to access them.

Eligibility criteria for universal short breaks must be set fairly. Speak to your local authority to see if they offer universal short breaks.

Finding information about short breaks

Local authorities/trusts must provide parents of disabled children with information about what kind of short breaks are available in the area. This is sometimes called a short breaks (services) statement.

Families in England may find information about short breaks on their local authority’s local offer website. Families in Scotland can search for services at Shared Care Scotland, the national third sector organisation providing information on short breaks. There are also young carers’ projects across Wales, which organise leisure activities, trips and even holidays for young carers. 

“Time for yourself will help with your strength, patience and resolve for the times ahead.”

How we’re improving short breaks services

In England, we’re support parent carer forums to work with their local authority, commissioners and providers to improve short breaks provision in the local area. This involves providing forums with case studies and resources to support their work.

Find out more about how we’re improving short breaks services.