Local authorities and the voluntary and community sector provide a range of short breaks services for families – including overnight stays, day trips with groups of children, fun activities in the community and one-to-one support. Providing short breaks gives families much-needed help and respite support so they are not forced to rely on often costly emergency intervention when the pressure gets too much.
A new evaluation of the short breaks programme, published on Friday, shows the positive impact that short breaks can have on families with disabled children – with 88% of families surveyed currently using some form of short breaks service. But there is more work to be done to better target services and make sure all families have access to a wide range of support.
To help improve the way short breaks are provided, the Government is also announcing today £40 million of capital investment in 2011-12. This will help support innovative local services like the Hull bicycle project, which provides adapted bicycles so disabled children can have fun cycling in the park with their friends.
The extra cash comes ahead of a complete overhaul of the special educational needs (SEN) system over the next few years. The Government has received nearly 2000 responses to the SEN Green Paper call for views – nearly half of the responses (40 per cent) coming from parents of children with SEN and disabilities.
The key areas of concern from parents, teachers, local authorities, SEN coordinators and others are published today and show that
- the SEN system is overly complex, bureaucratic and adversarial
- parents want to get better information on the services available and the choice of schools
- better training is needed for school staff to recognise SEN and work better with children and their parents
- education, health and social care services need to work better together to identify and deliver on children’s needs.
Ministers are keen to ensure the green paper takes account of everyone’s concerns, delivers real changes to the SEN system, and has lasting benefits for children with SEN and disabilities and their families. The call for views gathered will inform the work on the green paper, which will be published in February 2011.
The funding for short breaks has been protected in the Comprehensive Spending Review and will be included in the new Early Intervention Grant for local authorities. The funding includes additional money recycled from savings to the Child Trust Fund.
In addition, the Government has recognised the important work of the Family Fund Trust in supporting low-income families with disabled children, and today confirmed at least £27 million of funding for every year of the spending review for grants to families to help them meet the additional costs of caring.
Christine Lenehan, Director of the Council for Disabled Children, said:
We are delighted that the Government has recognised the essential value of short breaks to the lives of families of disabled children. This announcement, combined with the introduction of the short breaks duty, sends a really powerful signal to local authorities about the importance of continuing and developing the level and quality of provision.
Notes to editors
A key element of the short breaks programme has been to engage parents in the decision-making process about the kind of short breaks available. Together for Disabled Children, which is contracted to support local authorities in delivering short breaks between 2008 and 2011, reports that where there is good quality parental engagement, more children receive short breaks.
The short breaks programme began in 2008 as part of the Government’s Aiming High for Disabled Children programme. It aimed to bring about rapid increases in the numbers of disabled children and their families who could benefit from short breaks. By the end of 2009-10, 47,000 more children were receiving short breaks than in 2007-08 before the programme began.
Regulations have been laid in Parliament to introduce a duty on local authorities from April 2011 to provide a range of short breaks to carers of disabled children, and to publish information to parents about what they can access. The regulations were consulted on in January 2010 and the consultation response was published this month.
Funding provided for short breaks will be delivered to local authorities through the Early Intervention Grant. The Government will be providing £198m/£202m/£206m/£210m for short breaks over the next four years. This figure includes the previously announced recycled Child Trust Fund money of at least £20m each year.
A summary of the SEN Green Paper call for views responses will be published on the Department’s website today.
The research evaluation of the short breaks programme is available on the Department’s publications website.