Sheffield City Council has approved a range of measures designed to save around £550,000 from the city’s short breaks budget. The changes affect the £400 short break grant and after-school, holiday and Saturday clubs accessed through the SNIPS service.
Changes to the short break grant:
- Eligibility for the short break grant will now stop on a young person’s 18th birthday (one year earlier than previously).
- Only families on certain benefits* or with a household income below £21,000 per year will be able to apply.
- Families will now have to choose between the short break grant and short break services, such as SNIPS clubs, direct payments or overnight respite – they will no longer be able to get both. (This is per disabled child – so a family with two disabled children would be able to access a short break service for one child and the short break grant for the other child.)
Changes to SNIPS clubs:
Parents of children accessing SNIPS clubs will be charged a financial contribution:
- For children who attend a universal (mainstream) club, parents will have to pay the normal cost of the club or activity. SNIPS will continue to fund any additional support the child requires.
- For children who attend a specialist club which only caters for disabled children, parents will have to pay a contribution of £7 per session. (Families with more than one disabled child accessing a SNIPS club would pay a family payment capped at £10 per session.)
Families on certain benefits* or with a household income below £21,000 will be exempt from the charges.
When will the changes start?
The application process for the short break grant will open around the end of October 2018, and the changes will be applied then. Information will be published on the Council website.
The charges for SNIPS clubs will be introduced in 2019, and parents of SNIPS users will be contacted with further information.
When the changes were announced in July 2018, we issued a position statement in which we expressed concerns about the way that parents had been consulted about these changes and the way that the decision had been reached. We also raised concerns about the potential impact of some of the measures, especially on the most vulnerable families.
We shared our concerns with councillors, and this prompted the council’s scrutiny committee to “call in” the decision. The committee met on the 3rd of September to look at the issues. It ended up endorsing most of the recommendations we had made.
The Cabinet Member for Children and Families considered the committee’s recommendations and agreed to: 1) allow families with more than one disabled child to access the short break grant for one child and a short break service for another; 2) ensure that SENCOs are briefed about the changes; 3) report back to the committee in eight months’ time about the impact of the changes and the savings achieved.
The other recommendations – intended to mitigate the impact on vulnerable families – were rejected. These included raising the income threshold from £21,000 to £24,000, not making families with children with very complex needs choose between the short break grant and a short break service, and capping or scrapping the contribution to mainstream SNIPS clubs.
Families often describe short breaks as a “lifeline”. We are concerned that the changes outlined above will leave some families without the breaks they desperately need. This may well lead to more requests for social care assessments or for increased care packages.
Please tell us about the impact of the changes on your family. We will collate your feedback and make sure that it is taken into account when the scrutiny committee looks at the impact in eight months’ time.
* Free school meals, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit, Tax Credits (Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit), Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support, Social Fund (Sure Start Maternity Grant, Funeral Payment, Cold Weather Payment), Universal Credit. Tax credits are considered a qualifying benefit even if they take a family’s income over £21,000.