Short breaks are fun opportunities for disabled children and young people that give families a 'break' from caring.  A short break can be for an evening activity for a couple hours, some support during the day or an overnight break. 

Every local authority is required to provide a range of short breaks.  To find out what short breaks are available in Bristol visit the Fun things to do and having a break page. 

As well as providing a range of short breaks every local authority must publish a statement on what they offer for short breaks.  Read Bristol's Short Breaks Statement.

The short breaks requirements for Local Authorities comes from The Breaks for Carers of Disabled Children Regulations 2011. Find out more about Local Authorities duties to provide Short Breaks.


Previously known as 'respite', short breaks are essentially preventative, family support services that create an opportunity for the disabled child or young person to have a break from their parent/carer and vice versa and can be any time frame ranging from an hour to a day, evening, overnight or weekend, depending on the needs of the family involved. It can take place in a community activity setting, a child/young person's home or other residential setting and allows for the parent/carer to have a break from their caring responsibilities.

Traditionally, short breaks have been made available in the form of residential provision and overnight stays with link families. Now the range of options has increased as service providers have introduced inclusive play and leisure options, community based short breaks, sessional and outreach work and sitting services.

Who can get a short break?

Any child (who can be living with their birth family or fostered) and following an assessment by the Disabled Children’s Service, and is deemed to be 'in need' is eligible for a specialist short break. A child 'in need' also has an allocated social worker and is defined as:

'a child who is disabled or whose vulnerability is such that they are unlikely to reach or maintain a satisfactory level of health and development, or their health and development will be significantly impaired without the provision of services. (section 17 of the Children Act 1989)'

Short break consultation

Following extensive consultation the final short breaks commissioning plan was adopted by the Mayor in Cabinet on 7 October 2014. A copy of this plan can be found here and in the useful documents section to the right.

In November 2014 tenders were released for the provision of a new set of community based short breaks services. These will start from July 2015 and are expected to be configured differently to those currently in place. However, we will continue to offer residential and school-based holiday activities as well as a range of play and leisure opportunities after-school, at weekends and during the school holidays, including a befriending and BME service and some specialist activity sessions for autistic children and young people.

Current community based short breaks services will continue to operate as they are through Easter and Whitsun school holidays until the end of June 2015. These include short breaks currently offered by WECIL, Khaas, Playbus, NAS, Time 2 Share, Action for Children, BAP and the Special Schools consortia (Briarwood, Kingsweston, New Fosseway and Claremont). Access to these services is by direct application to the provider or with support from Bridging Workers and the schools. Updated information about the newly commissioned services will be available here in a few weeks.

The short breaks regulations give further detail on how local authorities must perform their duty in the Children Act 1989 (“the 1989 Act”) and provide, as part of the range of services for families, 'breaks from caring for carers of disabled children to support them to continue to care for their children at home and to allow them to do so more effectively'.


Short Break statement and consultation

Our short breaks services statement and revised eligibility criteria framework sets out how Bristol will:

  • provide a range of short breaks services
  • give families the choice to access short breaks services using a direct payment
  • publish a statement of their short breaks services on our website
  • keep our short breaks statement under review
  • state in our short breaks service statement the range of short breaks services available, the criteria by which eligibility for services will be assessed and how the range of services is designed to meet the needs of families with disabled children in their area
  • consult parents as part of the review of the statement
  • consider the legal implications of the eligibility criteria we apply to short breaks services and not apply any eligibility criteria mechanistically without consideration of a particular family’s needs

and ensure that:

  • short breaks are reliable and regular to best meet families’ needs
  • local authorities should try to reach groups of parents who may be more difficult to engage
  • parents are engaged in the design of local short breaks services
  • short breaks can build on and be offered by universal service providers
  • we are working in partnership with health services to understand the range of short breaks services in our area and to train the workforce
  • short breaks promote greater levels of confidence and competence for young people moving towards adult life
  • local authorities should ensure that those who use short breaks services have the chance to shape the development of those services and continue to develop their workforce in relation to short breaks services

Other documents

Please use the links below to find out more about Short Breaks.



This page has information for residents in the City of Bristol.  Find out about what other Local Authorities do.

Last Update 7 April 2017 by Findability Team.


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