Have your say on changes to Short Breaks assessment for children with SEND

Norfolk County Council is proposing changing the way children’s needs are assessed for Short Breaks. It is consulting on a new approach to work with families to create a plan of activities and support for children with additional needs and disabilities (SEND) which focus on their needs, instead of focusing on setting a budget for the child and matching support to that budget.

It is part of a broader review of the county council’s £2.4 million a year Short Breaks service, which supports around 1,700 families with activities and support at home, at centres and in the community.

The consultation and review do not propose any reduction in access to Short Breaks or reduction of the service’s £2.4 million annual budget. It seeks to increase choice of activities on offer in local areas and give opportunities to experience activities together, if that is what’s right for a child and their family.

The wider review which is set out in the Short Breaks Strategy 2023-26 include:

  • new inclusion co-ordinators to support more local sports and interest clubs to include children with SEND
  • the council directly commissioning new mobile rural short breaks and more local short breaks to improve the range and quantity of provision in localities
  • expanding the service to include pre-school age children with SEND
  • enabling families having their Short Breaks reviewed from 1 April this year to use funding flexibly, if they wish, for a holiday together in the UK and/or to use funding to pay for siblings and whole families to enjoy Short Breaks together rather than funding only allowed to be used for the child with SEND.

The Short Breaks service provides assessments and funding for children and young people with SEND aged from five to 17 to take part in out of school activities including summer clubs, days out, specialist support and care, and overnight stays. It is currently facing a 75% increase in demand for its services.

Short Breaks aim to provide the additional support children with SEND need to have fun experiences, establish friendships, and develop confidence, independence, and the social and emotional skills to enable them to transition to adult life successfully. Whilst the children are participating in activities, respite is provided for their families.

Currently assessment is made for Short Breaks entitlement using a Resource Allocation System (RAS) questionnaire to work out the day-to-day needs of a child to determine an appropriate individual budget for them. The budget is paid onto a pre-paid card and families then choose and find their own activities according to their child’s preferences and needs and pay directly using the card.

The proposed change is for assessment to be made through a new Circle of Support framework where Short Breaks plans would be designed and agreed with children and young people with SEND and their parent carers based on need and desired outcomes rather than setting a budget and matching support to the budget. The level of support and activity provision would remain the same, but some of it could be delivered in a different way if it better meets a child’s needs through a mixture of funding and locally provided activities paid for or commissioned directly by the council.

This means some families may receive a different amount of funding than before because their package may include provision directly commissioned by the council or more local provision.

The children who are eligible for Short Breaks are those with a physical or mental impairment that is substantial and has a long-term negative effect on their ability to do normal daily tasks.

The Short Breaks service has talked to families and parent carer groups about the new strategy and proposed Circle of Support framework. Now it wants to widen its consultation.

The consultation is open to all including families not currently in receipt of Short Breaks but who may apply in the future. Families already in receipt of Short Breaks have been contacted directly.

To get involved visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/shortbreaks. The consultation can be completed online or printed off and posted back to the council for free. It is also available in large print and easy read. It is open until Tuesday 25 July.