How to contact us for advice

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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Short breaks

Short break services are a form of respite care which are part of the range of support that children’s services can provide for families of children in need. In practice, short breaks are most often provided for children who are disabled.

They usually have two aims:

  • To enable the child to take part in fun and interesting activities
  • To give the parents or foster carers a break from caring.

Short breaks include many different types of arrangement. They can last for a few hours or, an evening, or for a whole day. Short breaks can involve overnight or weekend stays, either with a foster carer or in a residential setting. For some families, short breaks can include overnight care in the child’s own home.

A minority of children who use short break services will become looked after children while they are away from home. This will depend on children’s services’ assessment of the child and family’s particular needs.

However, a child is more likely to be looked after while they are away from home if:

  • They spend a lot of time away from home
  • They have overnight stays in more than one setting
  • Their care requires highly specialised training or the use of specialised equipment or communication, or they need regular invasive treatment.

When a child is looked after for the time they are away from home, children’s services must draw up a care plan. The planning and review requirements can be modified in some circumstances, however.

The full planning and review requirements will not apply if:

  • Breaks are pre-planned and take place in the same setting
  • Each break lasts less than 17 days
  • In total, the breaks last less than 75 days in any 12 month period.

In these circumstances, a short break care plan will be drawn up. This will need to be reviewed less often than a full care plan.

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