Help with taking a break for disabled children and their families.

by Elaine Bennett. Short breaks are a really effective way of improving quality of life for disabled children and their families.

Mother, baby and toddler


As the parent of a disabled child, you will sometimes need an occasional break otherwise you can become completely exhausted or even unwell.

By taking a break, your child will also benefit from a change of scene, contact with other people and new experiences.

The type of break you choose will depend on you and your child's needs and what is available locally.

How CBeebies can help

Sometimes it's not possible to get a break as regularly as you might like. But it's important to take time out for yourself and for your child.

In the meantime, programmes such as Something Special can really help with any child's development, but this is especially the case for children with disabilities.

There are some really fun activities on the show's website - there are games, songs, clips, stories, as well as Makaton signs to print out. You could also use the iPlayer to watch recent episodes of the show with your child.

How to make a magic moment

Short breaks enable parents to recharge their batteries and children to have fun experiences with different people. This means that the time you do spend together is quality time.

Extra information

Many people manage to take breaks from caring by asking other members of the family, friends or neighbours to take charge from time to time. However, you may find you need a more formal arrangement that doesn't depend on other people being available and willing to help you when you need it.

Your child's GP or social worker may be able to arrange a short break, or you may be able to arrange and pay for it privately. There are many different ways of taking a break.

Care at home
This includes sitting services (which provide someone to sit with or 'mind' your child) and care attendant schemes (which provide help of various kinds at home, including sitting).

Day care away from home
This includes nurseries, playgroups, opportunity groups, nursery schools and classes for pre-school children, as well as child and family centres. There may also be out-of-school and weekend clubs, and during school holidays, access to playschemes.

Residential breaks
This includes residential homes, special units in hospitals and hospices. Talk to your local social services department.

Family link schemes
This is where your child stays with another family occasionally or on a regular basis.

Social services departments of local authorities are responsible for arranging support for disabled children and their carers. You have a right to have your child and family's needs assessed by social services. The assessment is important because it can lead to a number of services being provided including short breaks.

The assessment process can be daunting but there is help available to ensure that you understand and are able to navigate the system.

For more information about your legal rights to short breaks, and to find out how to get a break, telephone the Contact a Family Helpline on 0808 808 3555.

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Expert opinion

It is quite common to hear statements like 'Our local authority no longer provides short breaks' or 'We don't do carers assessments in this local authority'.

These statements are unlawful and you should have good grounds for a complaint. It's important to know your rights about getting support from your local authority. Organisations like Contact a Family can help you.

Anne Brook, Head of Advice and Information at Contact a Family

Top tips

  • Short breaks are positive experiences for disabled children and young people as they get the opportunity to make friends and have fun away from their parents.It's important to take a break for your health and well-being.To access short breaks you must get your child and family's needs assessed by social services.The assessment process can be daunting, but there is help available to ensure that you understand and are able to navigate the system.

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