Short Breaks

Short Breaks is an umbrella term used to describe social, leisure daytime activities for children and young people with, disabilities.

Short Break enables children with disabilities and their families to participate in social/leisure activities and can provide a break from caring for their parents/carers.

The Short Breaks offer activities for disabled children and young people to make sure they have the same opportunities as other children to have fun, spend time away from home with their friends, and develop a range of skills and independence.

Accessing short break services means

  • children and young people with disabilities can explore different social and leisure activities.
  • parent and carers can have a short break from caring responsibilities.

You can read more about short breaks in our service statement in the downloads below.

KIDS have been part of a Short Breaks partnership group working together with the Council for Disabled Children, Action for Children and Contact a Family for the last year.

This statement provides an overview of:

  • the range of Short Breaks services available to disabled children and their families
  • eligibility criteria
  • Short Breaks provision 

1. Introduction and background 

This information is for families living in the City of London who have a disabled child aged 0 to 17 years inclusive.

Section 25 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 requires local authorities to provide short breaks for families with disabled children. Regulations relating to this duty came into force on 1 April 2011 and require each local authority to produce a Short Breaks Service Statement so that families know what services are available, the eligibility criteria for these services and how the range of services is designed to meet the needs of the families with disabled children in this area.

More information can be found in the City of London’s Short Breaks Strategy available in the download section below.

2. What are short breaks?

Short breaks offer activities for disabled children and young people to make sure they have the same opportunities as other children to have fun, spend time away from home with their friends, and develop a range of skills and independence.

Having access to short breaks can play an important part in supporting personal and social development of children and young people by enabling them to explore different social and leisure activities which could also include having a break from their main carer. Short breaks can also support families by providing a break for parents and other family members from their caring responsibilities. A full list of our short breaks providers is available on the City of London’s SEND Local Offer.

3. Eligibility

Children and young people are eligible for short break services if they have a disability which results in a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out everyday activities. This may include:

  • A physical disability
  • A learning disability
  • A sensory disability, for example, a hearing or visual impairment
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Children with complex health needs or who have a life-limiting or life-threatening condition
  • Children whose behaviour may be challenging as a result of their disability.

We believe it is important to allocate short breaks in a fair way. Not all children and families will need the same level of short breaks; some will need more than others because of the impact of their child’s disability or their individual family circumstances. Every child and their family are different; therefore, we provide a range of short breaks support.
In the City of London, we have three levels of support available for children and young people who are entitled to receive short breaks

Universal Services and Inclusion

Many families with children and young people with disabilities can use the same services used by all families, to have a break. This includes children with a lower level of need such as those with a special educational need to those with moderate learning disabilities; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) without any further associated difficulties; high functioning Autism; a visual or hearing loss; a physical disability only, such as cerebral palsy.

We believe that those disabled children should be able to access universal services, experience fun and enjoy themselves with friends the same way as other children and young people. Genuine inclusion means that services in the City of London are designed and equipped to enable disabled children and young people to enjoy the same activities and opportunities as non-disabled children. As an example, this includes activities such as breakfast and after school clubs, Police cadets and Scouts, school-holiday activities, leisure activities at Golden Lane Leisure Centre, Youth Club and Youth Forum. You can find out more about these services on the our SEND Local Offer.

Children with a disability who are aged 0-4 years old, can be supported into an age-appropriate setting such as a Children’s Centre or Early Years provision.


Two-year olds with Disability Living Allowance (DLA) are eligible for free 15 hours nursery or childminding, which can be used for ‘respite’.

Core offer

Some children and families will need more specialist provision in order to enjoy a short break.

In the City we have a range of specialist services for children and young people with disabilities which families can choose from. We aim to promote choice and independence in the provision of our short breaks and encourage children and families to select their preferred short break from the list of providers approved by the City of London. In some circumstances, where the families are not able to choose from the list of providers, direct payments will be offered. A direct payment allows families to access a short break or other specialist support service independently. Direct payments are where the family is allocated a budget, they can use to purchase their own short break, e.g. swimming lessons. Families will need to have an assessment from the Children and Families team before they are allocated direct payments.

Eligibility for the Core Offer of Short Breaks from the City of London.

  • Be aged between 5-17 years old
  • Reside in the City of London on a permanent basis
  • Be in receipt of DLA at Middle or High Rate care component or receive Personal Independence Payments (PIP) at Intermediate or Advanced and can provide an original copy of the child’s DLA award letter or PIP award letter which covers the current year
  • Have an Educational Health and Care (EHC) Plan [not mandatory]
  • Require a targeted/specialist short breaks service and be unable to access universal provisions without additional support

Enhanced offer

Some children and families need more help than is available through a targeted specialist service (core offer). If you think that this applies to your family, then you can request a social care assessment by ringing the Children and Families team on 020 7332 3621 and asking to speak to a Duty Social Worker, or you may be referred by a professional working with you.

To be eligible for the enhanced offer a child or a young person must also meet the following criteria:

  • A complex health or developmental needs, or
  • A diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder with an associated severe learning disability, or
  • Sensory disabilities or
  • A severe physical disability, or
  • A life-limiting condition
  • Be in receipt of DLA at Middle or High Rate care component or receive PIP at Intermediate or Advanced and can provide an original copy of the child’s DLA award letter or PIP award letter which covers the current year
  • Have an EHC Plan

Enhanced offer services might include overnight breaks, support in the home, or direct payments to enable you to purchase the services that you need.

4. How to apply

A completed short breaks application form can be returned by email to short.breaks@cityoflondon.gov.uk, given directly to the allocated worker or sent by post to this address:

Children and Families Team
Department of Community and Children’s Services
City of London, PO Box 270
Guildhall
London, EC2P 2EJ

If a professional is requesting short breaks on behalf of a child or young person, they can either do this as part of your support plan or can complete a short breaks application for you. All applications should have the original documentation, to confirm eligibility, attached to the form. All original documents will be copied for our records and returned securely to the applicant.

If you are a parent or carer of a disabled child and would like to access a short break in the City or have an informal chat about our offer, please contact us on 020 7332 3621.

5. Complaints

If you are unhappy about the type or level of service on offer, you can complain. We aim to resolve any disputes quickly and effectively. In the first instance, contact the team manager for an informal discussion. If there are continuing concerns, City of London has a formal complaints process, which can be initiated by contacting us by calling 020 7332 3621, or emailing short.breaks@cityoflondon.gov.uk.

Children and young people can access short breaks services if they have a disability which results in a substantial and long-term effect on their ability to carry out everyday activities. This may include:

  • a physical disability
  • a learning disability
  • a sensory disability, for example a hearing or visual impairment
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • children with complex health needs or who have a life limiting or life-threatening condition
  • children whose behaviour may be challenging as a result of their disability

In the City of London, we have three levels of support available for children and young people who are entitled to receive short breaks.

Universal services and inclusion
There is a wide range of activities provided by organisations in the City of London. Universal services are available to all, including children with special educational needs and disability and can be accessed without the need for assessment. These are services delivered in various settings, which can be accessed independently. Families can seek advice from involved professionals or from the Local Offer to help you decide which activity to access. Examples of these services may include, after school clubs, sports and leisure activities, swimming, music sessions and various youth provisions. The people who run these activities have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to make sure children and young people with disabilities and special educational needs can access them.

Core offer
This is for children and families who are unable to access universal services and require a more specialist provision. Services might include a targeted short break, such as a specialist play-scheme, 1:1 outreach service or help to access a universal service.

Enhanced offer
The enhanced offer is for children and young people with the most severe and complex needs who require significant support to enable them to access a short break within a specialist service. The Short Breaks available for this group of children and young people could include additional top up activity hours or an overnight short break.

You can read more about short breaks in our service statement and short breaks strategy and guidance (see the downloads below) or go to our directory to find services that support children and young people with disabilities.

You can download and complete our Short Breaks application form and return it to short.breaks@cityoflondon.gov.uk. If you do not have email, you can print the form and post it to the following address: 

Children and Families Team
Department of Community and Children’s Services
City of London
Po Box 270
Guildhall, London, EC2P 2EJ.

How long will my application take to process?
We aim to acknowledge all Short Breaks Applications within five working days. Requests for targeted and specialist short breaks will need to be decided by the Short Breaks Panel and can take up to 30 working days.

Do I have to send original supporting documents?
Yes, we will photocopy the originals and send them back to you. Alternatively, you are welcome to arrange a time to drop the documents to our team at The Guildhall.

Can I choose more than one short break provider?
There is some flexibility with choosing providers. For example, you can use one provider for your term time provision and another for your school holidays. If you would like to do this, please speak to the short breaks team.

Can a provider come to my house?
We have some short breaks providers that offer an ‘Outreach’ service. This can be used out in the community or in the home. We recommend families contact providers before making their choice so they can discuss the options available.

How is Short Breaks reviewed?
To monitor outcomes and service quality all new short breaks agreements will be formally reviewed at three and six months from the date first arranged. Following successful initial reviews, short breaks will be reviewed on an annual basis as an absolute minimum.

Individual Budgets/Direct Payments - How much am I going to receive?

Each child’s payment is calculated on a pro rata basis so it will depend on the time of the year you are awarded Individual Budgets. Individual budget users will receive payments 4 times a year (quarterly). We expect you to submit receipts and invoices to us every 3 months. After we have checked these and ascertain that you can manage the individual budget, we will raise a payment for the next quarter. We recommend families use the funds within the quarterly time frame. All funds must be used before the end of the financial year, 31 March.

How does a pre-paid card work?
Your short breaks fund will be transferred to the pre-paid card. It is like a banks direct debit card, all activities/transactions should be made using this method or bacs transfer. If you are unable to pay for an activity using your pre-paid card you MUST retain all receipts and invoices of costs incurred.

When do we have to send receipts in?
We review short breaks spending regularly and we ask families using Individual Budgets to submit their pre-paid card online bank statements, short breaks activity log and receipts quarterly. We can also request copies of the statement directly from our payroll provider.

Can I use my individual budget to pay for a carer?
Yes, you can use your Individual Budget to pay for a carer, we have a list of approved agencies if you need support. You will need to organise and manage the carer, their hours and the activities they provide for your child.

Can I use it to pay for travel or transport?
Your Individual Budget can only be used to pay for travel to and from your child’s short break activity, please keep hold of the travel receipts and note which activity you used the travel for.

Can I use it to pay for a sibling?
Occasionally we may approve for your child’s Individual Budget to pay for entry into a service for a sibling or parent if you consider this to benefit you as a short break. We would expect that this is not a regular activity and that you speak to the short breaks team for approval.

Can I pay for the carer to access activities?
We understand that on some occasions the cost of the carer to access an activity might be necessary but we expect you to contact the places of interest in advance to make sure you get the best concession rate possible.

Can it be used to purchase equipment?
No, Short Breaks Individual Budgets cannot be spent on equipment.

I’ve been waiting for some time, why haven’t I received my payment?
During busy periods such as at the beginning of the financial year there might be a slight delay. We will try our hardest to get payments to families as soon as we can.

NB: Further information about Individual Budgets/Direct Payments can be found on our Individual Budgets Framework FAQ.

We frequently speak to families through our parent/carer forum and to young people using our services. This is to find out what families think of our short breaks and to find ways to improve our services. If you have some feedback you would like to share with us on your experience of short breaks, please email: short.breaks@cityoflondon.gov.uk.

Let us know if you are unhappy about the type or level of service on offer. We aim to resolve any disputes quickly and effectively. In the first instance, contact the manager from the Early Help Team for an informal discussion. Call 020 7332 3621 or short.breaks@cityoflondon.gov.uk.

If there are continuing concerns, City of London has a formal complaints process. Visit the City of London website.