Short breaks policy

Short breaks policy

Short breaks are preventative, family support services so a disabled child or young person can have a break from their parent/carer and vice versa.

They 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.

Find out more by emailing

Who is eligible

Any child (who can be living with their birth family or fostered) 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)'

Targeted short breaks commissioning plan

The targeted short breaks commissioning plan (pdf, 276KB) (opens new window) was developed in consultation with service users and practitioners and was approved by the Mayor on 2 October 2018. It sets out the commissioning intentions for Shorts Breaks that we jointly fund with the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group. 

Short breaks services statement and eligibility criteria

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'.

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 (pdf, 207KB) (opens new window) 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