8 out of 10 family carers feel exhausted, isolated and even suicidal due to local council cuts to short break services across the country, a report from Mencap has found.

Cornwall Council is considering the closure of two of their short breaks homes, St Christopher's in Redruth and Red Wing in Truro, as part of a review of the short break service. This will mean children travelling considerable distances, which will place greater stress on their families. These possible closures come at a time when50% of other councils in the country have cut spending on short breaks for families who care for relatives with a learning disability.

Short breaks services (also known as respite) are provided by local authorities and give carers and people with a learning disability a chance to recharge. While the government has invested in short breaks, the use of this money was not ring fenced, and research by Mencap has shown that it was not spent on the services that families desperately need. This is despite family carers saving the government £119 billion each year in costs for full-time care.

The exhaustion and isolation caused by not having access to these services is forcing many carers to breaking point, where they feel they can no longer carry on. This is not caused by caring for someone with a learning disability; it is the result of being a carer without a single break. Carers carry this huge responsibility out of love for the person they care for. But reaching breaking point can be prevented.

Mencap is campaigning for every family that needs a short break to get one, and we are campaigning for the government to step in and stop local councils from abandoning their spending on short breaks.

Jan Tregelles, Chief executive, Mencap says:

"We’re constantly inspired by the level of dedication and love that family carers give their loved ones with a learning disability. Many of these carers provide care and support 24-hours a day, seven days a week, and a short break can be a vital lifeline that can stop them reaching a point of emotional and physical exhaustion.

“An opportunity to take time out from providing constant care is a small ask. All of our local groups are experiencing devastating cuts to short breaks services in their area for both children and adults with a learning disability. So we are calling on the government to stop these cuts at a local level and commit to ring-fencing funding for these essential services that people with a learning disability and their families rely upon."

Hayley Goleniowska, spoke to Mencap about the dangers of cutting short breaks services:

“Our youngest daughter, Natalia, now 7, was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome and a heart condition at birth. I had spent too many nights on a ward camp bed with my other daughter Mia tucked next to me. Eventually the cracks begin to show. “

“Cuts to short breaks services will have a terrifying impact on many families. I have reached breaking point before, and there must be help when we need it. “

For those families who feel they are close to breaking point, Mencap has developed a Short Breaks Campaign pack with information on how to receive this care, and what to do if your council is planning to cut these services.