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Short breaks (previously respite care) 

What are short breaks?

Short breaks are activities that give children and young people with disabilities or additional needs a chance to:

  • have fun
  • try new things
  • make friends
  • join activities
  • gain confidence and independence

Children and young people can enjoy a change of scene and a break from the home environment.

They also give their families and carers a break from the demands of caring for their child. This means parents and carers can have time to: 

  • spend with each other
  • their other children
  • relax

Who is eligible?

Check if you are eligible for short breaks.

You may be able to access short breaks in many ways. This will depend on the provider and the nature of the activity session. For example, parents or carers can book some breaks themselves (as long as they meet the providers criteria). For other short breaks, such as for those with complex needs, you may need to have a social care assessment by a social worker. They can then refer you for a short break. 

What do short breaks involve and what is available?

Children and young people can have either a non-residential break or a residential break. 

Non-residential breaks 

This is usually a day activity (outside of school hours) in the local community. This could include:

  • a trip to the cinema or bowling
  • visiting a farm
  • activities at a leisure centre

They can also take place in the home whilst the family is out. 

Residential breaks

These are overnight stays. They take place in a setting set up for children and young people with disabilities or in the home of an approved carer. There may be several children staying at the setting at one time. This means the child or young person can make friends and spend time with others with similar needs. 

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.

What do we do?

We provide:

  • support to organisations to develop schemes
  • funding towards set up
  • regular funding for the provision of some short breaks

Find out more about short break activities and funded organisations in the Dorset short breaks service statement.

Short break providers

Find short break activities in our Family Information Directory or see Dorset's Xchange websitefor more information.

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