Short breaks and respite feedback

We know from parent carer feedback that short breaks and respite are a vital service for many families; the lack of such opportunities can leave parent carers in desperate situations. The local authority recently received an increase in funding for short break provision and ESPCF held two focus groups to hear from you about what is needed to improve these services in East Sussex.

Read on for a summary of the sessions, the results of East Sussex’s short breaks survey, and an update on the local authority’s short breaks statement. Thank you to everyone who shared their views and experiences with us.

Short breaks are an opportunity for children and young people with special educational needs & disabilities to have fun, enjoy new experiences and spend time away from their families.

They also give families a chance to have a break from their caring responsibilities.

Focus group feedback

We heard clear and strong messages about current issues and what is needed to improve short breaks services in the county:

  • Families need better information about what is available
  • There is a real shortage of personal assistants who can support children and young people
  • There is a real shortage of facilities that can cater for complex and specialist needs

You also said:

  • Weekends, and Saturdays in particular, are when short break opportunities would be most welcome
  • There need to be groups that offer activities where children and young people can be supported without their parent carers as preparation for the future. Children and young people need the familiarity of being comfortable to stay with someone outside of the family
  • Many parent carers resent the stigma that can come with having to approach social care for help, and some report a feeling of being negatively judged by social workers

Although the survey and focus groups were about short breaks, we also heard about families who are in urgent need of specialist respite services, including overnight provision. ESPCF is in contact with the local authority about this and we will update you when we have any further information to share.

East Sussex survey results

East Sussex County Council ran a survey in October 2022 asking parent carers, young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and their siblings about their views and experiences of short break services in the county. ESPCF has now been briefed on the results:

  • The surveys were completed by 416 people
    • 270 from parent carers, 114 from children and young people with SEND and 32 from siblings
    • 268 parent carers answered the question on whether they currently accessed short breaks and only 17 answered yes.
    • Those accessing short breaks gave positive feedback about the provision
  • When asked why they weren’t accessing short breaks, the most common reasons were:
    • 37% didn’t know who to contact or where to find the information
    • 30% were not aware of any short breaks to access
    • 16% didn’t know if their child/young person meets eligibility criteria
  • When asked what outcomes parent carers would like from accessing short breaks, the answers were varied, but these were the most common themes:
    • A break from caring responsibilities / affordable, accessible breaks / uninterrupted time to spend with other children
    • Opportunities for child/young person to make friends and have fun / gain skills, confidence, and experience
    • Child/young person has time away from parent carers and can develop trusting relationship with other adult carers
    • The vast majority of parent carers wanted short breaks to be available during the weekends and school holidays
So what happens next?

A project plan is underway and will start with improving the communication and information on existing services. Applications for grants to fund existing and new short break services are in place, and early in the new year a process will start to find an organisation to provide larger scale weekend and holiday provision.

A short breaks statement is also being developed and we expect it to be published soon. This is a requirement for all local authorities to provide information about the range of short break services in the area, the criteria for accessing it, and how the range of services is designed to meet the needs of carers in the area. The regulations also state that the local authority must have regard to the views of carers in its area when preparing the statement.

ESPCF will continue to work alongside the Joint Commissioning Manager at ISEND with responsibility for this area and we will be looking for parent carers who would like to be part of this work. Please watch this space for further developments or get in touch if you’d like to register your interest in becoming more involved in this work. We’d love to hear from you.