Short Breaks

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

What are Short Breaks?

Short breaks enable disabled children, young people and adults to have time away from their carers, explore new opportunities, have fun and broaden their social networks whilst promoting independence. They can provide families with an opportunity to have a break from their caring responsibilities, and can last from a few hours to a few days, evenings, overnight and weekends.

If you think you may be eligible, you can apply for a short breaks assessment in which the local authority will review your needs as a carer which will determine your Short Breaks eligibility. Please see the Who is eligible? and How to Apply sections below for more information.

To see the sort of activities local families are spending their direct payments on, click on the Short Breaks Activities document at the bottom of this page.

Who Are Short Breaks For?

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 downloads section at the bottom of this page. Please read the Short Breaks Strategy before completing an application.

Benefits of Short Breaks

Having access to short breaks can play an important part in supporting the personal and social development of children and young people. The opportunity enables them to explore different social and leisure activities, and may involve 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, enabling them to have time for themselves to recharge and refresh.

Some children have told us that short breaks have helped them to gain confidence and independence, as they have been able to access an activity they found enjoyable and were able to meet and interact with new people.

Parents have expressed gratitude for supporting them in having downtime to run errands and relax.

Children and young people with a disability which results in substantial and long-term effects 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 accessed 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; and/or a physical disability, such as cerebral palsy.

We believe that those disabled children should be able to access universal services, experience fun and enjoy themselves with friends in the same way that other children and young people can.

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 the City Youth Forum. You can find out more about these services and opportunities on our SEND Local Offer pages.

Children under 5 are not eligible for Short Breaks.

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 15 hours free 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. The core offer 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.

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. With direct payments, the family is allocated a budget that they can use to purchase their own short break, e.g. swimming lessons. Families will need to complete an assessment with the Children and Families team before they are allocated direct payments.

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

  • 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
  • Require a targeted/specialist short breaks service and be unable to access universal provisions without additional support
  • Have an Educational Health and Care (EHC) Plan [not mandatory]

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 and need more help than is available through a targeted specialist service (the core offer).

The short breaks available for this group of children and young people could include additional top up activity hours or an overnight short break.

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. You may be referred by a professional working with you with your permission.

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

  • Has 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 Educational Health and Care (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.

A completed short breaks application form can be returned by email to, 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


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 who would like to access a short break in the City, and you would like to have an informal chat about our offer, please contact us on 020 7332 3621

How can I appeal an unsuccessful application for Short Breaks funding?

To make an appeal against a decision made on an unsuccessful application for Short Breaks funding, please submit your appeal in writing directly to the Short Breaks Team

Unless you can demonstrate that the decision has been unfairly or inappropriately applied to your application, the appeal may be declined.

Please note that your appeal must be submitted within 5 working days of the date of decision. Additional information that was not originally provided within the application may be disallowed, as decisions are made based on complete applications within a 30-day timeframe. It is your responsibility to ensure that your application is complete and correct prior to submission.

If you wish to provide additional feedback, you may also refer to the Comments, Feedback and Suggestions page on the main City of London website.

For further information or advice regarding your Short Breaks Funding application, please submit your enquiry the Short Breaks Team

Dishonest/Fraudulent Applications

The City of London Corporation is responsible for protecting the public funds that it administers and has robust procedures in place to detect and deter fraud, and dishonest and/or misleading applications. Should the City receive an application or supporting evidence that is dishonest and/or misleading, this may be passed to the City’s Counter Fraud & Investigation Team for investigation.

If an applicant is found to have furnished false and/or misleading information, further action may be taken and this may include prosecuting action.

Short breaks funding must only be used for the purposes of which it is intended. Should the City suspect or identify that short breaks funding is being misused, this will be fully investigated and any payments frozen during the investigation in order to protect public funds.

The City of London will take all necessary steps to recoup all misused monies and will report any fraud identified to partner organisations as allowed by law, including to the Department for Work and Pensions.


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. We expect you to submit receipts and invoices to us quarterly to ascertain that you can manage the individual budget. Misused or unused funds will need to be returned to the City of London.  All funds must be used before the end of the financial year.


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?

The City of London promotes and encourages independence and can provide independent travel training where appropriate. In most cases, we expect parent/carers to take responsibility for travel arrangements to and from the chosen short break activity. The mobility element of DLA is to help assist in the transportation of children with a disability.


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.

Carers Card UK  offers a Carers ID Card and app to support you when caring for someone. The card is for anyone that looks after someone that needs help and support. It provides reassurance by including your Emergency Contact details (ICE), whilst unlocking Discounts, Wellbeing Hub, our Carer Circle tool, and so much more through our app. 

The short breaks team can assist with purchasing a Carers ID Card. 


Can direct payments be used to pay for holidays and school trips?

Direct payments cannot be used to fund family holidays. Short breaks money is to be spent on regular social, leisure and daytime activities only. The money can also not be used to fund school daytime or residential trips, as this will be considered an educational trip. 


Can it be used to purchase equipment?

No, Short Breaks Individual Budgets cannot be spent on equipment.


I’ve been waiting for a while, 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 to find out what families think of our short breaks and to find ways to improve our services.

If you have any feedback you would like to share with us on your experience of short breaks, please email:

If you are unhappy about the type or level of service on offer, contact the Children and Families Team manager for an informal discussion at

If there are continuing concerns, City of London has a formal complaints process, which can be initiated by contacting us on 020 7332 3621 or

We aim to resolve any disputes quickly and effectively.