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Short breaks statement


Introduction and context

The Children Act 1989 and the Breaks for Carers of Disabled Children Regulations 2011 place a duty on local authorities to provide breaks for carers of children with special educational needs or disabilities. This is to support them to continue to care for their children at home and to allow them to do so more effectively. The Breaks for Carers of Disabled Children Regulations 2011 give more detail on how local authorities must fulfil their duty to provide breaks from caring, including a requirement to produce a Short Breaks Statement. This Short Breaks Statement is intended to inform local families about the services that are available, the eligibility criteria for accessing these services and how the range is designed to meet the local needs of families with disabled children.

How is the statement prepared?

In South Tyneside the original statement was produced in 2011, in consultation with our parent forums, young people and professionals from social care, health and education. It is updated regularly through consultation with our parent's forum and young people views on short breaks.

The Commissioning Team, who report to the Head of Integrated Commissioning, are responsible for preparing and updating this statement.

We encourage and value feedback from families and young people. If you would like to be involved in the annual review of the Short Breaks statement please contact the Commissioning Team on 0191 427 2689.

What is a short break?

Short breaks are activities for children and young people that enable them to socialise and enjoy their free time whilst also giving parents and carers a break from their caring role. Short breaks are available for eligible children up to 18 years old. They can be a family activity or can be offered on an individual basis. Short breaks are provided to give:

  • Disabled children and young people enjoyable experiences away from their primary carers, thereby contributing to their personal and social development and reducing social isolation;
  • Parents and families a necessary and valuable break from caring responsibilities.

Local Authorities are required to secure as appropriate:

a. Provision of day time care for disabled children in both their own homes and elsewhere

b. Provision of overnight care for disabled children in both their own homes and elsewhere

c. Provision which will enable children to participate in educational and recreational activities

d. Emergency care, for example, due to illness in the family.

Who do we think might need a short break service?

In South Tyneside we have a population of approximately 31,194 children and young people between the ages of 0 to 18 years. Guidance issued by the government as part of the Aiming High for Disabled Children Programme suggested that when we think about how many children might need additional support we should use a figure of 1.2% of the child population. In South Tyneside this would mean that approximately 356 children and young people might need a short break service. Census data from 2011 indicates that the general numbers of children in South Tyneside will remain constant for a number of years.

Figures indicate that approximately 7% of South Tyneside's population are from an ethnic minority background. Of this population (2,076) 1.2% may require short breaks. This equates to approximately 25 children and young people. All of our services are available to children and young people from these backgrounds.The uptake is monitored and encouraged via links with schools and community based organisations

How do we think Short break Services will make things better for children, young people and their families?

Our aim is to provide high quality, reliable and varied short breaks for children with disabilities and their families. We see this as being essential to the effectiveness of early intervention and preventative support, and our short break provision strives to achieve the following overarching outcomes:

  • Reduced family breakdown and the number of families experiencing crisis.
  • Strengthen family capacity to care effectively at home reducing the need for specialized and respite care.

Each short break provision has clear objectives that will contribute towards achieving the above outcomes including:

Children and Young People

  • Have fun and enjoy learning new skills.
  • Improve social interaction and develop positive relationships with peers.
  • Develop positive relationships with adults outside the school and home environments.
  • Reduce social isolation and associated mental health concerns.
  • Improve wellbeing and physical health.
  • Develop personally and socially, achieving greater independence and choice.
  • Access positive experiences independently from their families.
  • Reduce the poverty of expectation and ambition - allowing young people to realise their potential.
  • Build up a social routine and a network of social / peer support.
  • Build confidence and ability to access further activities independently.

Parents and Carers

  • Allow parents to recognise the abilities and capabilities of their children.
  • Reduce the stress of caring for a child at home - minimising the need to access residential care and overnight short break services.
  • Improve the quality of care given at home.
  • Enable carers to spend quality time with siblings.

The Local authority also provides a young carers service that is able to respond to the needs of siblings of disabled children.

Which Short Break is right for you and your child?

The level of support you might need is determined by the impact of your child's disability on the family. This is not pre- determined by the particular nature of the impairment or disability, or by the diagnosis of the child's condition. The age range can be from 0 - 18years.

Not all children will need the same level of support and short breaks; some will need more than others because of the nature of their child's disability and its severity. Some families may need more support because of their individual family circumstances. This is why it may be necessary to assess your child and family to ensure we provide the right level of support and short breaks at the right time. The short break activities are divided into 3 areas:

1. Which activities can be accessed by all children and families locally?

Most disabled children will be able to access the same leisure activities provided by universal services as their non-disabled peers, without the need for an assessment. Service providers have a responsibility under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to the way their services are provided in order to be inclusive to disabled children. Where it is not practical for a disabled child to use a universal service then we will consider specialist services to address specific requirements. We intend to continue to pursue options for inclusion wherever possible and will liaise closely with our colleagues in universal services to do so.

Parents and carers of disabled children can register with the Network of Children with Disabilities free of charge. The network helps to support families of children with disabilities or additional needs by providing them with up to date information via newsletters and emails on short breaks and other activities both in South Tyneside and regionally. Information about the network is available on the council website at Children with Disabilities Network or by phone on 0191 424 4416.

2. What short breaks are available for children and families who require some additional support?

  • A variety of weekend and after school activities. The specialized after school clubs offer the chance for pupils of all ages with disabilities and additional needs to enjoy and achieve with their peers outside the setting of the curriculum, as their peers without disabilities or additional needs do.
  • The Sports and Play Teams, provide support for families both after school and in school holidays through the Holiday Activities Programme for disabled children and young people. The holiday sport and play schemes provide vital breaks for both young people and their carers during periods of the school year that are known to be stressful.

3. If previous levels of short breaks are not sufficient there may be services available following a social care assessment

Some families need a high level of support. This support might be needed to ensure that the child is kept safe and that the parents are able to continue caring for their child. For many families support is often needed in the longer term. Families who need a higher level of support, including overnight short breaks need to be referred to the Children's Disability Service for a social work assessment. Initial referrals are made to Child Referral and Assessment Team, Tel:  0191 4245010 and can be made either by a parent or a professional. Where appropriate a social worker will undertake an initial or core assessment, which will include information from other professionals who may be working with the child. This should also include the offer of a Carers Assessment at this point.

  • The residential short break unit "Foxden" takes up to 4 young people at any one time aged 8 - 18, usually 2-3 nights at a time and possibly up to 2 weeks.
  • Registered foster carers are able to provide overnight short breaks in a family setting. However the evidence locally is that there is currently a very small demand for this type of short break provision.
  • Families are able to have 1-1 outreach support, to support them at home, or to take individual children out for a while.
  • Other children with complex or life limiting conditions can be supported through provision in hospice type care, for example at St Oswald's Hospice in Newcastle.
  • Direct payments are available to families following an assessment to enable them to purchase the services that work best for them and employ staff for support that meets the assessed need.
  • Individual Budgets, which specify the total funding available, are also available to young people with disabilities and their families. This allows them to manage their own care package needs and to carry forward the service provision into adulthood without significant disruption.

We work closely with health professionals to ensure that any health needs continue to be met whilst children are participating in short breaks. This can include joint funding of short breaks for children with complex needs.

How do we support the transition to adult services?

The development of independence skills is inextricably linked with the role of short break services in aiding disabled young people to live an independent life. The Children's Disability Service works closely with the Adults Disability Service to continue to ensure that young people moving into adult life will be able to achieve a fulfilling and active life.

How do we consult families about our Short Breaks Programme?

Feedback from each Short Break provision, by parents and children and young people, is used to monitor and develop each short break. The services that we provide are based upon the continued feedback of the services initially developed during the Aiming High programme from 2009 to 2011 and during the course of the Short Breaks programmes since then.

Families told us:

  • Looking after a child with global development delay who dribbles and is doubly incontinent can make life and days long and hard. This welcome break eases stress.
  • Having a disabled child is a 24/7 job. These play schemes allow us to do the normal day to day stuff with a lot less stress.
  • In holiday time it can be unbearable. All routine has gone and accessing things for a child with disabilities is extremely hard. Without the group I feel safe in saying that the whole families' mental health would suffer greatly.
  • This would have a detrimental effect on the whole family ... it is vitally important to everyone's wellbeing.
  • He comes back from the group calmer and happier. I benefit from the break. It helps me feel less stressed and more able to cope.
  • It's lovely to have a couple of hours to get things done or to yourself. Getting the shopping done etc is far less stressful as she hates it, so it benefits us all if she doesn't go.

Young people with disabilities and their families were asked about accessing mainstream services and they told us:

  • My child needs help to access activities so they would need more helpers...they would need training
  • Easy access...train staff for children with special needs, equipment suitable for all children
  • Staff awareness of disability
  • It would have an impact on stress especially as other mainstream activities are not accessible. His care would not be compromised.
  • Special times of the day/night when children with disabilities/additional needs can attend so that they aren't stared at and made to feel unwelcome

Young people have told us how they value the short breaks:

  • Taking part in various sports that I wouldn't get to do otherwise
  • Trying different activities and meeting new friends...being made to feel welcome
  • Enjoy doing girls stuff with friends has helped with friendship groups
  • I love all of it; getting to know new people; seeing friends...

What will we do as a result of the consultations?

  • Ensure that families and young people have the same opportunities and experiences as non-disabled young people and their families.
  • Ensure that services continue to work in collaboration to ensure that the needs of these young people are addressed.
  • Ensure that services provided at a lower level of need can be cost effective in helping families to successfully bring up their children without requiring a high level of support.
  • Ensure that mainstream services are able to support children with complex and additional needs, and that they take the necessary steps to prepare to work with those young people.
  • Ensuring access to the range of activities and services that most people are able to, will help transform the lives of disabled children and their families
  • Provide these services as part of the early intervention and preventative work to families who may otherwise need more intensive support.
  • Continue to ensure that disabled young people, their families and carer's are given the opportunity to have a say in the kinds of services we provide for them.


We recognise that transport and access to transport can be difficult for young people with disabilities and their families. When short break services are planned, care will be taken to minimise transport difficulties. Families will be supported to claim appropriate benefits and to have information concerning available local travel.

How we ensure the quality of our short break services?

We are committed to offering the highest quality services for all our disabled children and young people living in South Tyneside. We expect all our short breaks to:

  • be high quality
  • represent good value
  • to meet the needs of local families
  • enable disabled children to have new experiences and develop new skills.

We intend to ensure that we achieve best value for money through the monitoring and evaluation of all the projects and activities funded. We are always looking to improve and provide new short breaks to ensure we reach out to all families living in South Tyneside, and to do this, as part of our quality assurance and monitoring we continue to involve disabled children and their families through regular consultations. We seek advice and guidance from children and their families when setting up new short break activities to ensure the most appropriate short break services are provided. We also ask each provider to gain feedback from users of the service, to monitor uptake of services, and report back regularly.

What are our plans for the future?

During 2014 the government implemented significant reforms in how disabled children and those with special educational needs (SEN) receive services through education, health and social care. The main changes include the replacement of Statements of Special Educational Need with Education, Health and Care Plans to provide better, more coordinated assessments across education, health and social care. The intention is to give parents and young people more choice and to ensure that services are better focused on the needs of the child or young person. A 'local offer', detailing the services that are available and how to access them is updated annually and includes details concerning short breaks.

Education, health and social care continue to work together with parents to implement the SEND reforms in South Tyneside. As part of these reforms we will be looking again at the range of short break services that we provide to ensure that they meet the needs of parents, children and young people, that they are of high quality and that they provide best value for the Council.

This short breaks statement will be reviewed and updated annually.

Where can you get information on these services?

The Council publishes information about activities and events that are open to access by any family or disabled young person, subject to the policies of the provider, and any charge for service made by the provider. 

The following services can provide assistance on the phone:

Short Breaks Service: 0191 424 4416
Children & Families Social Care: 0191 424 5010

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