Quality in practice...best use of BREAKS FOR DISABLED CHILDREN
The government's 2007 strategy, Aiming High for Disabled Children, identifies the need for efficient and effective short breaks. In our study of services for disabled children aged between four and 16 over the past 10 years, parents, carers and children told us what they wanted from short breaks.
Types of breaks
Families want short breaks that offer not only time for children away from parents and carers but also support for families to spend time together, perhaps taking a personal assistant with them on holiday or for a day out.
Crucially, parents and carers also saw short breaks as a chance for their children to develop their independence and self-reliance.
Information for parents and carers
Information about short breaks for parents and carers and eligibility must be widely available. It must be clear; one local authority has a panel of parents and carers who read information for clarity before it goes out to the wider community.
Some parents had been put off applying by leaflets showing photographs of disabled children using wheelchairs and being tube fed, and mention of "severely" disabled children, even though they later discovered that their child was entitled to some short break provision.
Parents, carers and children want social workers and their colleagues to listen to their views about short breaks. They want flexible provision, not a "one size fits all" approach.
Evidence from one local authority suggests that involving parents, carers and children in planning short break services results in fewer emergency referrals to social services in the summer break.
Some families want the option of having their short break funding from Aiming High as direct payments. They said that this was a way of providing flexible short breaks, rather than organised residential weekends or family fun days.
In summary, clear information and flexible provision enable children and their parents and carers to get the most out of short breaks.
Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole is a research associate and Dan Goodley is professor of psychology and disability at at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Read the full report, Does Every Child Matter, post-Blair? The interconnections of disabled childhoods, by Katherine Runswick-Cole and Dan Goodley
Aiming High for Disabled Children
This article is published in the 29 April issue of Community Care magazine under the heading Flexibility can make short breaks count
Katherine Runswick-Cole (pictured) explains what parents and carers want from short breaks and how they can best be served
research associate and Dan Goodley is professor of psychology and disability at Manchester Metropolitan University