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.
Short Breaks Services – Update as of 30 July 2020
We are very pleased to advise that we will be delivering a limited short breaks service through our contract with Action for Children. The service will deliver a range of daytime short breaks that are compliant with all government guidance for Personal Protective Equipment and social distancing where possible. All families who access the residential short breaks services at the Grove, Merryfields and the Vines have now been offered 5-hour daycare sessions. These sessions will continue through the school holiday. We are continuing to review the guidance and review and plan to (when we can) restart very limited overnight care at these services when we are able to do so.
To date, during the COVID period, this service has only been offered to children and families deemed by Children’s Social Care to be at the very greatest need. When offering these currently limited daytime sessions individual risk assessments will have been completed by Action for Children and the child’s social worker together with the family.
With the summer holidays now underway the Bucks Activity Project (BAP) offering community short breaks to disabled children and young people aged 0 to 19 years have contacted all families that usually access the project to offer some school holiday short break sessions. You will have been contacted by Action for Children if you are an existing registered to be offered these sessions. Very small group activities will be taking place in their buildings across Bucks and some outdoor venues with a variety of activities such as circus skills, DIY science and water play.
Depending on how many families take up this opportunity it is hoped to offer each child up to 4 sessions through the holiday period. We appreciate you are used to more sessions but owing to the guidance that has to be followed about group sizes, social distancing and enhanced cleaning this severely limits the number of sessions children can be offered. You will have been asked/ will be asked to help complete a risk assessment (or your social worker have if you have one) to ensure risk is minimised as much as possible.
They are also providing a range of virtual sessions that are themed. If you are already registered and have used the BAP service before you will already have been sent information about this.
Unfortunately, these sessions cannot be offered to families who are new to the service.
In the meantime, it is important that you keep yourself and others safe by following government guidance on staying at home and social distancing. The Council has set up a community support hub with lots of advice and information www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/coronavirus
We know that this a very worrying time for many families and we are doing all we can to offer continued support to parents, carers, and children.
Worried and need help?
If you are worried and need help you can contact us as follows:
- If your child/ren have a social worker please call 01296 383 762
- If your family has a family support worker from the Early Help Service please call 01296 383 293
- If your child/ren do not have a social worker or a family support worker please call First Response Team: Telephone: 01296 383 962 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
If you need an urgent response outside of these hours, contact the Emergency Duty Team on 0800 999 7677.
Short Breaks help children and young people with a disability to:
Develop their independence
Increase their readiness for becoming an adult
Help their physical and emotional health
Have new experiences, learn, have fun and meet friends.
Short Breaks help parents and carers to:
Take a break from their caring responsibilities
Rest and unwind
Spend time with other family members
Provide the right support at the right time
Build their family resilience
We want Short Breaks to achieve the following:
For children and young people to say:
I have different options available to me. I can choose the type, location and time of my short break.
My short breaks have helped me to become more independent. Short breaks have taught me skills that help me in school, help me build relationships, travel on my own and use my own money.
My experience of short breaks is positive because I was listened to. I helped plan and design my short breaks.
My short breaks are helping me to reach my full potential. I am making new friends and learning new skills. I am more confident.
Short breaks have focused on my strengths and what I can do rather than my difficulties or disabilities.
For parents and carers to say:
I know what short breaks are available and how to access them.
There is choice across the type, time and location of short breaks.
Clear communication from professionals helps my family make choices.
I feel more resilient and able to deal with my caring responsibilities because my child attends a short break.
I can access support before I reach crisis point.
My child receives high-quality short breaks. They are cared for by trained, professional staff in a safe environment.
Action for Children provides services for Buckinghamshire Council and the NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group. We have gone through a detailed process to award a new contract and are able to confirm Action for Children will continue to run targeted short breaks under the new contract starting from 1 October 2019.
The strategy aims to:
support disabled children and young people to develop independence, learn new skills, make new friends and reduce loneliness
support carers with their caring responsibilities.
provide the right mix of universal, targeted and specialist support.
ensure access to short breaks is fair.
Priority will be for those who need it most. The strategy also outlines three categories of short breaks, which are listed below.
Types of Short Breaks
There are three types of Short Breaks, these are:
Universal Short Breaks
These can be used by anyone without an assessment. Examples of universal Short Breaks include youth clubs, after school activities, Cubs, Brownies, leisure centres and childminders. Wherever possible, these should be accessible to disabled children and young people.
Targeted Short Breaks
These are activities specifically for disabled children aged 0 to 19 years. These are known as The Bucks Activity Project. These services may be provided in the evenings, weekends and school holidays.
Specialist Short Breaks
These are daytime or overnight respite services, or services paid for by direct payments. Direct Payments are sums of money given to those eligible to buy their own care services. Specialist Short Breaks are designed to meet the needs of an individual child and their carers after a social care assessment. This assessment is called a Child and Families Assessment.
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 (Merryfields, The 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. We have considered the feedback we have received from families and it has now been agreed the new fee will be introduced from 1 February 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. This will be capped at £20 per month with same 50% discount as before. It will be collected by Action for Children who will arrange with you how often it is paid (for example weekly, monthly quarterly). As this is still new we will be reviewing again in September 2020 to see how it is working. We will ask you for your feedback again
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 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.
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.