Updated short breaks information for SEND families

The short breaks team at East Sussex County Council have recently published updated information about its offer for families with children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

This includes:

  • A new short breaks page on the Local Offer website
  • An updated statement on short breaks – this is a legal requirement for local authorities to provide information about the range of short break services in the area, the criteria for accessing them, and how the range of services is designed to meet the needs of carers in the area
  • New grants of up to £3000 for providers to run family fun day activities
  • A list of short break activities on the East Sussex 1Space directory to make it easier to find what’s available

What are short breaks?

Short breaks provide opportunities for children and young people with SEND to enjoy familiar and new activities away from their family. Importantly, short breaks also give carers much-needed time away from their caring responsibilities, so they can rest, look after themselves and recharge their batteries.

Categories of short breaks

There are three different types of provision:

  1. Universal: these are services and activities that are for anyone. They might be suitable for a child or young person with additional needs or disabilities, but are not designed as such.
  2. Targeted: this is provision that caters for children and young people with SEND. These services have eligibility criteria (such as claiming a disability allowance or having an education, health, and care plan – EHCP) but an assessment is not required.
  3. Specialist: this is designed to meet individual, more complex needs. To access these services (which include overnight respite) an assessment needs to be completed by the Children’s Disability Service.
Overnight respite

We know that overnight respite is desperately needed by some families and this has been communicated very clearly to the short breaks team, who also heard this directly from parent carers in our engagement sessions last year. ESPCF is meeting with the Children’s Disability Service to find out more about the threshold for specialist services, and to ask about the plans to improve and expand provision. We will let you know what we find out.


ESPCF does feel that the short breaks commissioner has listened and taken on board the feedback from families, including the 416 responses to the survey sent out in September to October last year which directly led to the grants for family fun activities being included, and the focus around weekends and school holidays.

East Sussex County Council are planning to commission short breaks in a variety of ways to try and ensure a wide choice of different activities. There are three parts to this:

  1. Smaller grants of up to £3,000 for organisations to arrange family activities such as family fun days
  2. Grants of up to £10,000 per project for organisations who can offer new or expanded services
  3. A bigger contract for an organisation or group of organisations together to provide a broad range of different short breaks

Applications for the £3,000 and £10,000 grants are already open, so should hopefully mean we see more short breaks more quickly.

For the bigger contract, ESPCF understands that a service specification – a written document of what is needed – has been developed based on feedback from families. It will set out the different types of activities and provisions needed, including general requirements for where and when (across the county and with a focus on weekends and school holidays). Organisations will then be able to apply to be the provider and set out how they can meet the requirements. We are hoping there will be parent carer representation in the process of assessing the quality of any applications. Once this process has been completed, it will then take some time for the selected organisation to arrange the short breaks activities, as this will include things like securing venues and recruiting staff.

Looking ahead

There is still a long way to go before short breaks can fully meet the needs of families. It’s really positive that there has been a substantial increase in funding, but it will take time for provision to be increased and for families to feel the benefit.

If you have any further thoughts, comments or questions please do get in touch either by emailing info@espcf.org.uk or calling 0300 770 1367.