Short breaks Q&A

2nd September 2010

  • Fundamentally a short break can be anything that provides the primary carer of a disabled child/young person a break from the additional responsibilities that this brings.  Short breaks can be overnight or day care and take place in a wide variety of settings.

    During 10/11 Sheffield City Council received £2,025,000 revenue funding and a further £787,000 capital funding to support the transformation of short breaks.  This is in addition to the money that is already being spent on Short Breaks in the city, which is in excess of £4,000,000 per annum.

    Short breaks are based upon an assessment of a family’s circumstances and the impact that caring for a disabled child may have.  For instance, increased family stress, lack of sleep etc.  At present short breaks are offered in Sheffield to any family with a child who has a diagnosis of disability with higher levels of service requiring an assessment in the form of a CAF or social work assessment.

    As with many things in the public sector at the moment local authorities are awaiting clarification from central government. The Government are undertaking their comprehensive spending review in the autumn at which point things should become clearer.  The Coalition have made positive noises about prioritising investment in “respite” care but are yet to commit to what this looks like in practice. 
    The Government intends to legislate for short breaks in March 2011, placing a mandatory duty on local authorities to provide short breaks.  In summary the draft documentation would indicate that short breaks would need to be provided to families who either would be at significant risk of breakdown without them, or who would function more effectively if a package of short breaks were in place.

    The best place to start is by contacting SIGN on 0114 2669476.  They hold a range of information about short breaks and also about services that are available in the city for families of disabled children.

    No, short breaks are provided all year round.  The level of service a family receives is based upon an assessed level of need.

    Most short breaks are funded for disabled children, however there are also some services in place for siblings.  In addition, if a disabled child is accessing a universal provision e.g. leisure centre, there is no reason that they could not be accompanied, although this is likely to incur a cost.

    Yes, direct payments can be provided in place of an organised short break.

    We have commissioned a range of training which providers have access to.  Amongst others this includes, first aid, manual handing, autism awareness and Team Teach.  All courses are being publicised to short breaks providers.

    Yes, this is possible and would depend upon the circumstances and needs of the family.

    There are a number of answers to this.  Firstly anybody who provides a service of any sort either on a commercial or voluntary basis is bound by disability discrimination legislation.  This states that a provider of services must make “reasonable adjustments” to accommodate the needs of disabled people.  The challenge with this is the definition of “reasonable”, as there are many factors affecting this, including cost of making the adjustment, health and safety and building constraints.  However the first action should always be for a provider to see if there are simple steps that can be taken to operate more inclusively. 
    Alternatively there may be support that Sheffield City Council Special Needs Inclusion Playcare Service can provide to a service in the form of mentoring, training etc.  If you have an instance such as this please contact SNIPS on 0114 273 4017 or by email at

    Yes we are still accepting applications for short breaks grants which can provide up to £370 per family.  The closing date for applications is 31 December 2010 and money must be spent by the end of March 2011.  If you would like further information please contact Catherine Calton on 0114 2398336 or

    By Chris Easton (AHDC Short Breaks Programme Officer)