Short Breaks

Changes to Short Breaks came into effect on the 1 October 2019. Read about these changes in the “Changes to Shorts Breaks Service from 1 October 2019” section below.

Short Breaks give children and young people with a disability time away from the family. This gives them the opportunity for independence, having fun with their peers, making new friends and gaining new experiences. Short Breaks also give parents and families a break from caring responsibilities. Some Short Breaks provide families with opportunities to take part in activities/trips together.


Changes to Targeted Short Breaks

To ensure access to Short Breaks is fair, priority will be for those who need it most. In order to be fair to all families, we plan to introduce a two-tier ‘Targeted Offer’ so services can be targeted to those most in need. This will be in the form of:

  • Standard Targeted Offer – 36 hours per year

  • Higher Targeted Offer – 90 hours per year

We are currently developing a questionnaire together with FACT Bucks that asks questions about your child’s and family’s needs. This will help us decide if your child will access the standard or higher offer.

We will test the questionnaire to ensure it is fair and fit for purpose before we roll it out. There will be a transitional period for families moving to the ‘Standard Targeted Offer’. There will be a process to follow if you do not agree with the level you are awarded and we will advise you about this. If your child’s or family’s needs change you can ask to complete another questionnaire where your offer can be reviewed.

We will be publishing the Questionnaire in due course when this is finalised and ready for all families to complete.

Help to use Universal Services

The questionnaire will also help Action for Children work out which children and young people might be able to use these activities instead of sessions just for children with extra needs. They will then offer support to use these sessions. This will range from signposting and transitional support to longer-term support. There will be a process to follow if you do not agree and we will advise you about this. If your child’s or family’s needs change you can ask to complete another questionnaire where your offer can be reviewed. We will be publishing the Questionnaire in due course when this is finalised and ready for all families to complete.

Increased Activity Fees

Activity fees to access the targeted short breaks service (Bucks Activity Project and Early Years Short Breaks) will increase from 1 January 2020. These will rise to:

  • £10 for a three-hour targeted short break
  • £20 for a six-hour targeted short break.

There will be a 50% discount for those on concessionary rates. Some high-cost activities, for example, ‘Go Ape’ may attract a higher activity fee (£15 for 3-hour short break) with a discount those on concessionary rates.

More choice and flexibility

Action for Children will be working with a number of smaller providers to make sure their targeted short break offer provides a greater choice of activities and times of delivery. Hours used in these services will be counted as part of your targeted offer. We will keep families fully informed as the programme for activity is developed. Action for Children will be managing the bookings for the targeted service and the allocation of the offer. They will also be responsible for keeping you informed about your offer and how it is used.


Changes to the Specialist Short Breaks Service (MerryfieldsThe Grove and the Vines)

Introduction of fees for activities

We will be asking families to pay a small contribution to support the activities your child uses whilst using the Residential Short Breaks Service. This brings it into line with other short break services funded by the Council. The fee helps pay for additional activities, including those outside of the unit such as going to the cinema, eating out, or swimming. It is not a payment for the short break you are receiving. The new fee will be introduced from 1 January 2020. It will be £5 for each night your child stays at Merryfields, the Grove or the Vines. There will be a 50% discount for those on certain benefits or whose combined income is less than the benefit cap. It will be collected by Action for Children who will arrange with you how often it is paid (for example weekly, monthly or annually). As this is new we will be reviewing this in April next year to see how it is working. We will ask you for your feedback.

More flexible short breaks provision

Our Short Breaks Strategy identified that we need to move away from traditional services based in buildings. This could reduce the number of short breaks that are in overnight residential settings. This does not mean we will be reducing services if there is an assessed need. Where the need for specialist short breaks has been identified, partners in health, education and social care will work with families and providers to understand what will support the child and their family most effectively. This may include greater use of our community short breaks alongside residential short breaks. To do this we will focus on the strengths and abilities of each disabled child and young person. We will build on what they can do and what matters to them. By focusing on each child we can develop their skills and promote learning. We are developing a wider range of activities for children with a disability. This will help us develop support plans to meet their individual needs.

Reviewing need

We will regularly review your child’s needs to make sure they are attending the right short break for their needs. This will help us achieve the best outcomes for children and young people and make the best use of resources. Sometimes a review might show their needs have decreased, but it may identify that more support is required. Your child and their carers will be involved in these reviews.


What you told us

 Through engagement and consultation activities you have told us that we should:

  • Make access to short break services fair

  • Decide who is eligible for short break services

  • Make sure people get the right type of short break to meet their needs

  • Make sure services meet existing and future need.

This means that the new contract will require some changes to the way Action for Children deliver targeted short breaks. We will not be implementing all of these changes from 1 October but will keep families fully informed of when changes will be introduced and how they may be affected.

As well as a public consultation on the strategy, a further consultation was held in November 2018 to ask young people and families about:

  • The services that they use (universal, targeted and specialist)

  • Barriers to use of universal services

  • The possibility of different amounts of targeted short breaks being offered to families dependent on their need

  • How levels of need should be evaluated

  • Levels of activity fees charged for targeted services.

Those that responded to the consultation broadly agreed with the changes to the services which are now being planned.


For more information please email contact Rona Hopwood:


Telephone: 01296 383 506