Devon’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Local Offer

Short breaks statement

The impact of COVID-19

The short breaks provision usually available to families in Devon has been impacted by the government’s COVID-19 restrictions. Our Disabled Children’s Service is working with families who are unable to access their usual support to find alternative solutions. This may be achieved using direct payments.


What is a short breaks statement?

The government requires every local authority to produce a short breaks statement so that disabled children, young people and their families know what services are available and how they can access them.

Our short breaks statement is divided into the following sections to make the information easy to understand:

  • The impact of Covid-19
  • What are short breaks?
  • Who are they for?
  • How do we access them?
  • What’s planned for the future?

The impact of Covid-19

The short breaks provision usually available to families in Devon has been impacted by the government’s COVID-19 restrictions. Our Disabled Children’s Service is working with families who are unable to access their usual support to find alternative solutions. This may be achieved using direct payments.

We have been working with organisations who provide short breaks to understand the pressures they are facing, and to support them to access what they need to safely provide services during this time, in line with government guidance.

Organisations providing short breaks have been prioritised in the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccinations and have been provided with access to lateral flow tests to support Covid safe delivery of services.

Eligible organisations were offered the opportunity to apply to our annual small grants scheme to receive up to £5,000 to make additional places available and/or cover increased costs. During the financial year 2020/21 this the scheme provided financial support to 28 organisations. Much of the market has needed to adapt and flex their offer due to fluctuating demand, attributable to both the caution that families have exercised and the changes to restrictions. This has led to some interesting innovation, with some services moving to online virtual delivery and others adapting environments and service delivery in line with guidance.

A handful of organisations have received a small amount of financial support, in line with the corporate supplier relief process, in order that they may continue to remain viable.

What are short breaks?

Disabled children and young people have the right to be supported at home and in their local communities, to have opportunities to make and meet friends, feel confident, and to thrive with a good family life.

Short breaks help to do this by giving an opportunity for children and young people to meet new people, take part in activities, enjoy positive learning opportunities and have different experiences whilst giving their families a break from their caring responsibilities.

They can last a few hours, a whole day, evening, overnight or for a whole weekend, or during the school holidays. They can take place at home, in the community or in a residential setting. Childcare settings can sometimes be used as venues for short break activities.

They can include support to access activities (such as sports, music, crafts, drama or community groups like Scouts of Brownies), this might be through support from workers often called enablers. This could be for a limited time to help a child join in with an activity until they can attend independently, or ongoing depending on their individual needs. They can also include group activities like youth clubs, Saturday groups and holiday clubs.

Support is also available in the home through short breaks, either to offer a child or young person’s parents additional support while they are there or to allow family members to take a break from their caring role.

Pinpoint Devon offers a directory of community services that are available to families in Devon. This information is supplied by community organisations themselves. It includes details of holiday activities, after-school clubs, overnight short breaks, enabling services, and support to access community-based activities.

Overnight short breaks

For some families, an overnight short break offers short-term care for children and young people with significant disabilities or a serious health condition.

They form part of a support package based on the particular needs of individual children and their families. They could be provided by a foster carer, registered children’s home (for short breaks) or an additional carer within the family home.

Who are they for?

Every family and situation is different, but short breaks are usually for disabled children and young people including those with complex health needs aged between 0-18 years living in Devon.

Devon County Council’s Disabled Children’s Service completes assessments of the needs of disabled children and their families to decide whether they are eligible for short breaks. Not all children will be assessed for short break services. The Disabled Children’s Service has eligibility criteria for assessment. If a child is not eligible for an assessment by the Disabled Children’s Service, their needs can be assessed and supported by early help.

The Devon Children and Families Partnership website has more information about early help assessment and support.

How do we access them?

If you think your disabled child or young person may be eligible for short breaks there will need to be an assessment completed by the Disabled Children’s Service.

If your child is eligible for an assessment this will look at what support your child needs, they will also consider the impact on the rest of the family. An assessment is broken down into three parts:

  • Strengths and needs of your disabled child or young person.
  • Your strengths and needs as their parent/ carer(s).
  • Strengths and needs of your wider family, including your disabled child or young person’s siblings.

Referrals are made through Children and Family Health Devon’s Single Point of Access Team. You can contact them by phone on 03300 245 321 or by emailing TSDFT.DevonSPA@nhs.net

Parents have told us they enjoy the flexibility of funding their short breaks through their direct payments and personal budgets so they can choose and arrange services themselves. We are committed to supporting families to do this wherever possible.

What’s planned for the future?

The way health and social care services are delivered to children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and their families is undergoing significant change.

As part of this we want to continue to develop and improve short breaks services to reflect the changing needs of children, young people and families in Devon, and to make sure they receive the right support, at the right time and in the right place.

We want children and families to have greater choice and control over the support they receive as this works best for them, so we are working to improve the information about what short breaks are available locally and how disabled children and their parents and carers can access them.

We will focus on the strengths that all families have and engage in different conversations which help us jointly identify what support will make most difference.

We will strengthen our approach to ensure we provide the right support earlier and at the right place and time for children, young people and their families. This will mean there is the most efficient and fair use of the resources that we have.

We need to ensure there is a comprehensive offer of support that is responsive, flexible and accessible to children, young people and their families within their own communities wherever possible.

To enable the continuous development of new services and ideas to support children and young people with SEND and their families, Devon County Council delivers an annual small grants scheme in partnership with the Parent Carer Forum Devon. The scheme offers community, voluntary and parent-led organisations the opportunity to apply for up to £5,000 to support children and young people (0-18) with SEND to access their local community and take part in activities alongside their friends.

We will continue to work together with Parent Carer Forum Devon alongside our short breaks providers through our short breaks provider forum, enabling the voice of families to work together with providers as we develop our current offer, and as we move forwards with recommissioning short breaks services. Providers wishing to become involved in our short breaks forum can contact us via: childrenscommissioningsecure-mailbox@devon.gov.uk.

We are listening – continuous participation and engagement

We’re currently reviewing our short breaks offer to make sure the service really works for children, young people and families in Devon. We’re speaking to families to understand what support they get now, find out what they think works well and find out more about their ideas on how things could be improved. While some of this work had to be paused during our Covid-19 response work, this work is planned to resume during spring/summer 2021, and we have committed through our work with Parent Carer Forum Devon to ensuring we check back in on what we heard through our engagement sessions in 2020, and understand how this looks for families now in 2021. We will also take forward our learning across Covid-19 impact, to inform the recommissioning work of short breaks.

More details, including what children, parents and carers have told us so far, can be found on our short breaks co-design webpage.

Parents and carers can also help shape the future of services by continuing to share their experiences, comments and feedback at sendlocaloffer@devon.gov.uk.

Parent Carer Forum Devon helps us to have regular conversations with parents and carers about services and support for children and young people with SEND. Find out more about how we work together.

Get in touch

To keep up-to-date with news and information about our Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Local Offer like our page on Facebookfollow us on Twitter or sign up to receive our SEND newsletter.

The Disabled Children’s Service has also launched a new e-bulletin. Sign up to receive the e-bulletin.

For more information on our vision for children and young people in Devon please see the Devon Children and Families Partnership Children and Young People’s Plan and our Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Strategy.

For more information about discounts you can gain through our Max Card and for more information about services and co-design opportunities please sign up to our Disability Network.

You can contact the Parent Carer Forum Devon using their website, or alternatively email admin@parentcarerforumdevon.org or request to join their Facebook group.