Short breaks

The term ‘short breaks’ (also known as respite) is used to describe the time off that family carers and people with a learning disability can get.

These breaks come in different forms. Some families go to short breaks centres, others are part of schemes involving placements with families, or receive direct payments to purchase their own support.

Councils must publish a list of all children’s short breaks in their area and make sure there is a wide range of short break options available locally.

They must also bear in mind that some short breaks might need to be provided to parents proactively, in order to help them to continue to provide care for their child.

Financial Support

There are several benefits for children who need additional support. From the birth of a child with a disability, parents can claim various benefits. These include:

  • Carer’s Allowance – this is a benefit for carers aged of 16 who regularly spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a disabled person. Claimants can receive £62.10 per week.
  • Child Benefit – this is paid to carers who are responsible for a dependent child, children or young person.
  • Child Tax Credit and working tax credit – these are benefits paid to a family because the parent/s are either not able to work or has low earnings. Child Tax Credit is only available for the first 2 children, but can be supplemented by a disability premium for any disabled child.
  • Universal Credit – this is a new benefit that will replace a number of existing benefits, including child tax credit, housing benefit, certain out-of-work benefits, and working tax credit. It is currently being phased in. You can find out whether you can now claim Universal Credit online.
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – this is available to a disabled child. The care component of DLA is available from birth while the mobility component of DLA is available for children from the age of three.

For more information about these and other benefits, including how to claim them, please visit our benefits pages. For a full list of benefits to which you may be entitled if you have a child, please visit the Disability Rights UK website.

The Family Fund is able to help in some instances by providing grants and information relating to the care of a child. Grants can be obtained for help with items such as washing machines, holidays, leisure activities, driving lessons, bedding, and clothing.

Family Support Programmes

Some families may feel they require some extra support to help them meet the needs of their child.

There are a number of different family support programmes available. Some are for all parents regardless of whether they have a disabled child, and some are more targeted towards meeting particular needs.

Family support programmes can be delivered by a range of providers: some are offered by a council, while some might be delivered by other organisations.

For an idea about what support your council can offer you, please visit your council’s website.

A few examples of family support programmes that are targeted at families of disabled children are:

Each programme has different eligibility criteria and not all of these options may be available to you in your local area.

Information and advice

There is a lot of information available to help parents understand more about what support their child can get. Here are a few of the main sources:

The ‘Local Offer’

Every council must have a Local Offer of support it expects to be available in the local area for children and young people with SEND. The local offer will be available on the council’s website – if you are unsure, you can find your local council on the website.

The local offer should have information about the following types of support for children and young people with SEND:

  • Education support, including nurseries, schools and colleges.
  • Health support, including therapies available to a child or young person.
  • Social care support, including short breaks.
  • Support to help young people to live independently.
  • Support to help young people to find employment opportunities.
  • Support to help young people find suitable accommodation.

You have the opportunity to comment on your local offer, including what you think about it and the local support that is available. Your council must publish how it intends to address any issues you raise.

Information, Advice and Support Services (IASS)

Every council must also provide an independent Information, Advice and Support Service. The support service is available for children and young people with SEND and their parents.

The IASS will provide information on things like:

  • Local policies and practice around SEND
  • The law on SEND
  • The Local Offer
  • Personal Budgets
  • Other sources of support

The IASS will also provide support for children, young people and families, including:

  • Advocacy
  • Key working
  • Help to complain if something goes wrong
  • Independent Supporters who can support families and young people with SEND to get an Education, Health and Care Plan (link to EHC Plan page)

Find out more about your local information, advice and support service.

Family Information Services

Your local Family Information Service (FIS) provides a range of information on all services available to parents, including parents of children with a learning disability.

To find your local FIS, please use the Family and Childcare Trust’s search facility.

Other support organisations

Join our online community

Connect with others going through similar experiences to you.

Mencap’s online community is a safe and supportive place to meet others, ask questions about learning disability, share experiences and offer support.


How to get the support you need

Contact the Learning Disability Helpline, our advice and support line, for guidance and information about what support we can offer you.

Or why not take a look at our online community? This is a place for parents and family carers of people with a learning disability to share experiences, advice and support.

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