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Short breaks for children and young people who are disabled

Before you think about short breaks, take a look at our Family Information Directory

It has details of activities, clubs and events for children and young people in Dorset. They are all universal, which means they're open to everyone; you don't have to be eligible to use them.

If your child can't take part in universal activities find out more about short breaks.

What is a short break and who is it for?

Short breaks (this used to be called respite care) is a service that supports disabled children and their families who can't use universal services. 

Short breaks give families the chance to:

  • have a break from their caring responsibilities so that children can continue to enjoy family life
  • rest and unwind
  • spend time with other family members

Short breaks give children and young people who are disabled the chance to:

  • spend time away from their parents and carers to build independence skills
  • relax and have fun with their friends
  • develop their independence

Short breaks can include:

  • a break for your child away from the family
  • group activities like a youth club for children and young people
  • holiday play schemes
  • sports, arts or music activities
  • one to one support so your child can take part in activities such as cinema trips

Find out more about the different types of short breaks in the video.

Information about short breaks from KIDS charity.
Information about short breaks from KIDS charity.

Targeted short breaks

Targeted short breaks are activities where additional support is provided for groups of children with a disability or additional needs to take part in. We subsidise some of these activities and they're run by organisations we have special arrangements with.

Who are targeted short breaks for?

Targeted activities:

  • are for children or young people who are disabled
  • can be accessed without needing to have a formal assessment. These activities are for children and young people in Dorset who can't access mainstream or universal activities. This means you'll need to meet the provider's criteria for the activity as it's based on what level of support your child needs
  • don't offer overnight stays

Targeted short breaks must:

  • take place outside school hours which means:
    • after school
    • in the evenings
    • at the weekend
    • during school holidays
  • allow families with children who are disabled the opportunity to have time apart; the child has an enjoyable experience and the carer has a break from their caring role
  • be a time where the parent or carer doesn't have to take responsibility for the care of their child during the activity (although they may have to be nearby)
  • be for children who need a certain level of support:
    • low level support: 1 staff member for 3 or 4 children
    • medium level support: 1 staff member for 2 children
    • high level support: 1 or 2 staff members for 1 child

How to get a targeted short break

Contact providers of targeted short breaks to see if your child is eligible for the activities they offer. If your child is eligible you can book a place directly with them. We subsidise some activities. 

Find out about targeted short breaks in Dorset

Register with The Xchange and search for activities on the Family Information Directory and The Xchange.

How much is a targeted short break?

We subsidise these services, but the provider will still charge a fee of around:

  • £6 for a half day
  • £12 for a full day

When do short breaks take place?

Short breaks are for any time outside of school time:

  • after school
  • at weekends
  • during school holidays

Examples of targeted short breaks

After school targeted short breaks

Some examples of after-school targeted short breaks include:

  • a weekly club for 13 to 18 year olds run by Diverse Abilities with different activities such as cookery, outdoor activities, games and meals out
  • bowling trips for 15 to 18 year olds to support transition to adulthood run by People First Dorset
  • weekly youth-led club for 15 to 18 year olds which can include cooking and art skills, anti-bullying discussions, friendship and relationship building discussions, multi-media and sports activities
  • evening stargazing and animal tracking once a month
  • farm club which can include animal care and training, outdoor team games, treasure hunts and baking
  • theatre and film visits
  • after school art club
  • swimming sessions
  • trampolining and gymnastic sessions

Weekend targeted short breaks

Some weekend targeted short breaks include:

  • performing arts sessions for children and young people between 7 and 19 years
  • family play with specialist toys and equipment, sensory room, ball pool and soft play area

Holiday targeted short breaks

Some holiday targeted short breaks include:

  • holiday clubs on the farm
  • creative music workshops
  • holiday club art sessions
  • family fun days
  • arts activities 
  • sports activities including athletics, tri golf, curling, kayaking, sitting volleyball, table cricket, ski bobbing and ringoes.

Specialist short breaks

Specialist short breaks are where we assess your child to find out how we can provide specialised groups or activities to help them take part.

A specialist short break can range from a few hours a week to overnight stays. They can take place in the day, evening or at weekends at:

  • the child's home
  • the home of an approved short break carer
  • a residential or community setting

Who are specialist short breaks for?

Specialist activities are for children who have been assessed and need them. Our Children Who Are Disabled social care team (or sometimes our Family Partnership Zones) carry out a needs assessment to work out if your child needs this service.

How to get a specialist short break

A child, young person, parent or carer or professional can make a referral to our Children's Advice and Duty service.

We'll pass the referral to the Children who are Disabled service if your child has a disability. We will also consider other children who have a number of problems or if they need more specialist intervention. This includes children with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We assess all children who meet the eligibility criteria.

If the assessment identifies that the child requires specialist services to meet their needs we can provide:

  • information and advice
  • support in and out of the home
  • home adaptations and equipment
  • short breaks

You can arrange and pay for support from private or voluntary services yourself, or use your direct payments.

Examples of specialist short breaks

Some examples of specialist short breaks are where a trained worker:

  • takes your child out for the day
  • comes to your home to do activities with your child

Or you could get:

  • domiciliary care for your child in your home
  • overnight support for your child in your home
  • overnight stay for your child in a carer's home
  • overnight stay for your child at a residential provision

How much is a specialist short break?

Generally a specialist short break shouldn't cost you anything, as we (Dorset Council) subsidise many short break activities. If you do have to pay, you can use your direct payments. You can use your direct payments to buy your own help and support.

NHS Continuing Healthcare assessment

Find out more about what NHS continuing healthcare can offer and who they support.

Where do short breaks take place?

Find more information on The Xchange website

Search for short breaks by location or postcode on our Family Information Directory.

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