Short breaks for disabled children

Short breaks for disabled children

What short breaks are, who they’re for and how to arrange one

What is a short break

A short break is for disabled children and young people and their families. They give disabled children and young people the chance to:  

  • spend time away from their parents and carers to build independence skills
  • relax and have fun with their friends
  • develop their independence

Short breaks give families the chance to:

  • have a break from their caring responsibilities
  • rest and unwind
  • spend time with other family members 

A short break can range from a few hours a week to overnight stays. They can take place in the day, evening or at weekends at:

  • the child’s home
  • the home of an approved short break carer
  • a residential or community setting 

Residential and overnight short breaks are registered with and inspected by Ofsted.

Short breaks can include:

  • families taking a break together, away from the routine of daily life
  • a break for your child away from the family
  • group activities like a youth club for children and young people 
  • holiday play schemes
  • sports, arts or music activities
  • one to one support so your child can take part in activities such as cinema trips

Types of short breaks available

Children, young people and their families have different levels of need, and a family’s needs may change over time.

We organise short breaks into three levels of need:

  • universal
  • targeted 
  • specialist

Universal services

Universal services are provided or are available to all children, young people and their families. They include:

  • play schemes
  • holiday activities
  • after school clubs
  • youth clubs
  • beavers and scouts
  • brownies and guides
  • libraries
  • playgrounds and parks

Creative Youth Network is a service for children with additional social, health and wellbeing, or educational needs. It's fully inclusive for children and young people with disabilities.

Targeted services

These are aimed at disabled children and young people who need:

  • extra support 
  • groups or services that are specifically designed 

You can access them directly if you meet the criteria that the provider has. You may also be referred to a targeted service by a professional.

They include:

  • Saturday clubs
  • sports, leisure and youth clubs
  • buddying and befriending
  • holiday activities

Specialist services

These are services for disabled children when a social care assessment shows they:

  • need more support to access a specialist range or activities
  • are at significant risk

How to get a short break

Not all children and families need the same type of short break. 

Our short breaks statement for 2019 (pdf, 207KB) (opens new window) describes how we decide which type of short break is most suitable for your family.

Universal services

Universal short break services are available to all children and young people, with and without additional needs. You can access them directly in your local community and don’t need an assessment.

Targeted services

Targeted short breaks services available are for disabled children and young people in Bristol who: 

  • are aged between 0 and 18 years old 
  • live in the Bristol City Council local authority area or are a child in care placed by Bristol City Council
  • have a disability, impairment or additional needs that require support for them to take part in social and play activities 

They are specific services for:

  • disabled children 
  • young people who have multiple needs because of emotional or physical difficulties, 
  • young people who may be affected by problems in their family 

This is a self-referral process. Contact the short breaks provider directly to find out about specific eligibility criteria. 

Specialist services

Specialist services are for families with disabled children and young people who need more support than is available through universal and targeted services.

Specialist services include:

  • personal assistants to support your child into community activities
  • family based overnight and day care
  • residential overnight short breaks
  • holiday clubs 
  • SEN Support at your child’s education setting
  • services from the Bristol Autism team
  • a personal budget and direct payments
  • health services

To get a specialist short break your family has a social care assessment of need completed by the Disabled Children’s Service or a social worker from the locality teams. 

The assessment decides what services your family needs and at what level. Once the Child’s Resource Panel for Specialist Services has discussed your child’s assessment Disabled Children’s Services will tell you the type of short break or support that has been agreed.

If you need an assessment for your child you can refer directly to First Response by calling 0117 903825 and it’ll be processed through the Disabled Children’s Service.

Organisations in Bristol that provide targeted short breaks

The organisations we work with all provide short breaks for carers and activities for disabled children and young people. 

WECIL run regular youth clubs across the city, Saturday sessions for young people (13-18) and a transitions group for young people (19-25) to help them with independent living skills. They lead a service called Out and About, which includes:

  • KHAAS,  who work with BME disabled children aged five to 19, providing Saturday clubs and days out during the holidays. 
  • National Autistic Society who run regular out of school clubs for young people with autism (8-12 and 13-18). 
  • Sense, who run regular sessions for children and young people (5-18) with sensory impairments.

For information about these services contact:

Action for Children offer regular short residential holidays for children and young people with a low level of need to those with the highest level, contact or 01934 835968.

Bristol Parent Carers run a family transport scheme, offering free or subsidised transport for children and young people travelling with their parents or carers to a short break or day out. Find out more about the scheme and if you are eligible on the Bristol Parent Carers website.

Face Filton and the Bristol Autism Project provide inclusive family activities for children with autism during school holidays. 

The Inclusion Service (based in the Disabled Children’s Service) work with any setting that provides short breaks, parents and disabled young people to support play and leisure activities. The Inclusion Service can can help if your child needs:

  • work done to the setting to make it more accessible
  • additional support
  • advice

Contact the Inclusion Service on  or 0117 9038250.

Short breaks service statement

The short breaks for disabled children service statement tells you:

  • what short breaks are available
  • who these services are for 
  • how we’ve designed a range of services to meet the needs of families 
  • how we evaluate services and use a range of policies to make sure they’re meeting our standards

We review the statement every year to make sure it’s up to date. 

Read Bristol’s short breaks statement for 2019 (pdf, 207KB) (opens new window) .
Read the full short breaks commissioning plan.