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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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