What are short breaks?

Step two of our Five Step Plan calls on the government to ‘Review funding of short breaks provision for disabled children and families’.

But what are short breaks?

The term ‘short breaks’ is used to describe the time off that family carers and disabled people receive.

These breaks come in different forms. Some families access short breaks at centres, others are part of schemes involving placements with families. Some receive direct payments to buy their own support.

Why are they important?

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

Breaks are an essential part of the support needed by the whole family. 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.

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

So what’s the problem?

Despite all this, many of these services are under threat.

A 2015 report, found that a majority (58%) of local authorities who responded to a freedom of information request, cut spending on short breaks between 2011/12 and 2015/16.

Last year, Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) announced it would stop funding Nascot Lawn, the Watford respite centre that had been the focus of a campaign to keep it open from local families who rely on the short breaks it provided for disabled children.

And we know that this is happening all over the country – 56% of respondents to a survey in 2015 agreed or strongly agreed that it is becoming more difficult for families with disabled children to access short breaks.

Only 9% of respondents to a survey of parent carers agreed or strongly agreed that families with disabled children could access the short breaks they need. And many parent carers said they accessed fewer short breaks than in the past due to service closure (24%), cuts in available hours (14%), and changes to eligibility criteria (11%).

Not to mention that 53% of parent carers said they had never accessed any form of short breaks service, suggesting large numbers of eligible disabled children are not being reached by provision.

Why do we want the Government to review the funding of Short Breaks?

To understand and address the growing crisis in short breaks provision, and ensure that the funding is there to give families the services they need.

We would like the review to:

  • Demonstrate the extent to which each local authority and CCG are meeting their statutory obligations to provide high quality short break services
  • Create evidence on the best ways to sustainably fund short breaks services
  • Identify where local authorities and health services are performing well so best practice can be shared and consistently applied.