Short Breaks Offer

This page outlines Islington’s Short Breaks Statement for 1 April 2024 to 31 March 2025. This statement explains the four levels of short breaks services in Islington and the eligibility for each. 

  1. Universal Short Breaks
  2. Universal Plus Short Breaks
  3. Targeted Short Breaks
  4. Support above the Short Breaks Basic Offer

The term ‘short breaks’ describes services that help adult parent/carers to more effectively provide care for their disabled child by providing them regular breaks so that 

  • they can meet the needs of other children in the family; 
  • they can study or take part in leisure activities themselves 
  • or carry out day to day household tasks.  

Islington Council has a duty to provide access to short break services for the parent/ carers of all disabled children aged 0-18 living in Islington.  

This statement explains the four levels of short breaks services in Islington and the eligibility for each 


The Short Breaks Basic Offer 

Consultation with families led to a simple idea that there should be a basic amount of hours that the parent carers of all disabled children should be able to access 

For children aged 2-5 years old the basic offer is 1.5 hours per week.  

For children aged 5-18 years old the basic offer is 3 hours per week.

The Short Breaks Basic Offer has the same number of hours per week across the different levels of Universal, Universal Plus and Targeted.  


Short Breaks for adults aged 18 + 

Entitlement to Short Breaks stops when people become adults at 18 years of age. Some services can be self funded or may be paid for following a Transition assessment (under the Care Act 2014) by Adult Social Care Services. 


Calculating hoursfor a year 

The amount of hours you can use at the Universal Plus and Targeted level of Short Breaks depends on when in the year you contact the Short Breaks Service and plan their use.  

Example: If an eligible family first contacts the Short Breaks service on 1 September 2023 the hours will be calculated from that date until 31 March 2024. The hours from 1 April – 31 August 2023 cannot be accessed. 


Universal Services


The majority of parent/carers of disabled children are able to get a basic offer of short breaks by using free or low cost local services that are open to all children.  

Universal services can be used without a short breaks assessment. 

Examples of Universal services include: 

Free and impartial telephone and information and advice is available from the Islington Family Information Service.  


Eligibility for Universal Services 

Universal services can be used without a short breaks assessment. Parent carers should contact service providers directly using the contact information published online. Families can contact service providers directly and discuss: 

  • what is on offer 
  • any eligibility criteria 
  • the availability of spaces 
  • any fees or costs to take part 

Some are free to use whilst others will make a charge. A subsidy may be available for families on low incomes. Families may use financial support they get from the Government to help them pay for short breaks including: 

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) 
  • Government help to working parents to pay for approved childcare 

We advise that families tell the service provider about their child’s additional needs including:

  • give the provider information about the child’s additional needs and how to best support them. This could include sharing a copy of the child’s SEN Support Plan or EHC Plan from school.  
  • discuss and explore what the provider may need to change (reasonable adjustments) based on previous experience  
  • jointly assess the risks and make a plan to reduce those risks 
  • make a plan for the child to have a visit, trial session or to start attending 

The Islington SEND Community Support Service can also be asked to support families and service providers with these discussions. 


Reasonable adjustments  

Universal services aim to be inclusive and open to disabled people wherever possible. Service providers have a duty not to treat a disabled person less favourably and a duty to make reasonable adjustments such as: 

  • making staff aware of any risks and how to support an individual child  
  • adapting activities to be inclusive 
  • providing a choice of activities 
  • allowing parents to attend for a while  
  • adjusting the adult to child ratios for some activities 
  • seek additional volunteers 
  • training for staff  
  • changing policies and guidelines 

However, not all universal services will be suitable for everyone. It is advisable to contact the provider to discuss your child’s needs and what reasonable adjustments they can make 


Support beyond reasonable adjustments 

If you have tried accessing universal services, the provider has already made reasonable adjustments and the additional barriers to using them have been identified you may need some additional support to access a basic offer of Short Breaks.  

Families or professionals working with families of disabled children can request a Short Breaks assessment using the Assessment and Referral Tool.

Please read the information about Universal Plus Short Breaks and Targeted Short Breaks before completing the Assessment and Referral Tool. 


Universal Plus Short Breaks


Universal Plus is the name we give to additional support to help disabled children use universal services so that their parents can access the basic offer of short breaks.  

Universal Plus is used where: 

  • families have already contacted and tried to access a range of universal services 
  • the provider has already made reasonable adjustments 
  • specific additional barriers have been identified  
  • there is clear evidence of a need for some additional support for the disabled child to help the parent carer access a basic offer of short breaks 

Parent carers will be expected to pay the costs of accessing services at the same price as anyone else. The Council aim to cover any additional costs there are because of the child’s disability. The support available at Universal Plus is to help parent carers access the Short Breaks Basic Offer 


Eligibility for Universal Plus Short Breaks 

The Short Breaks Service looks at every EHC assessment carried out by Islington Council. This helps to identify children that need additional support so that their parents can access short breaks. You can find out if a child is already eligible by looking in section H of a child’s EHC Plan or by contacting the Short Breaks Service 

Requests for assessment for Universal Plus or Targeted Short Breaks can be made using the Assessment and Referral Tool.

We aim to process all requests within 20 working days. This information will be considered by the Short Breaks Service and may be referred to the EHC Needs Management Board for their advice. 


Support at Universal Plus 

 Examples of support available at the level of Universal Plus include 

  • advice for universal services about how to best meet their duty towards disabled children 
  • information about other services that can help 
  • training for staff to help understand SEND or a child’s SEND 
  • help to adapt or buy equipment 
  • a contribution towards additional levels of adult support at certain times because a child is disabled (e.g. a childminder) 
  • support from Hayward adventure playground to other playgrounds  

 Universal Plus support does not include:  

  • paying for a service if the costs are the same as a child without SEND 
  • paying for support above the short breaks basic offer 
  • paying for childcare to work 
  • education or therapy 
  • any activity that the child does not like or that puts them at risk 
  • transport to and from an activity 
  • needs beyond providing short breaks for parents (e.g. the child making friends, accessing the community, mentoring) 


Targeted Short Breaks


Some children and young people have more severe and complex disabilities that cannot be easily met within universal childcare, play, youth and leisure services even if there are reasonable adjustments and additional support via Universal Plus.


Eligibility for Targeted Short Breaks 

The Short Breaks service looks at every EHC assessment caried out by Islington Council. This helps to identify children that need additional support so that their parents can access the basic offer of short breaks.  

You can find out if a child is already eligible by looking in section H of your EHC Plan or by contacting the Short Breaks service  

Requests for assessment for Universal Plus or Targeted Short Breaks are made using the Assessment and Referral Tool  

We aim to process all requests within 20 working days. This information will be considered by the Short Breaks Service and may be referred to the EHC Needs Management Board for their advice. 


Support available via Targeted Short Breaks

The offer for children assessed as needing targeted short breaks includes: 


1.  Targeted 1:1 Outreach Short Breaks.  

The Council has a list of approved agencies that provide  

  • staff to support a child in their own home  
  • staff to support a to access an activity or be with their friends  
  • staff to support a child in out and about in the community 

Current agencies in use include: Action For Children,  Centre 404, Wilcob Care, Integrity Care and Support, Special People.


2.  Targeted Short Breaks Clubs and Schemes  

Islington Council has worked with schools, local charities and other organisations to make sure there is a range of clubs and schemes that can meet the needs of disabled children with severe and complex needs.  

Targeted clubs and schemes include:  


3.  The Short Breaks Cash Alternative.

Direct payments so that parents can organise activities to get short breaks. Find more information about the Short Breaks Cash Alternative.


Support above the Short Breaks Basic Offer


Most families and children with disabilities will get the support they need from a combination of local services such as; 

  • Health provision via their family GP or specialist health professional 
  • Disability Living Allowance 
  • Information, advice and support from FIS or SENDIAS 
  • Additional support to access school, college or training to work via an EHC Plan 
  • Travel assistance between home and school 
  • The Short Breaks Basic Offer  

Sometimes families will have wider needs that may require help and support. 


Early Help Services 

When additional support is needed, for example with physical or mental ill health parenting or practical challenges like debt, rent arrears and unemployment, Early Help Services can step in.  

This support is delivered by a lead professional, usually a Family Support Worker, and is tailored to individual families with an emphasis on building skills and resilience to manage and solve problems. 

Early Help thinks about the needs of the whole family and coordinates this support so there is one lead person bringing together other services as a team around the family. This means the family don’t have to keep repeating their story and there is better communication between professionals. 

Families can self-refer to most Early Help services or professionals can refer with parental consent. Referrals to Children's Services Contact Team (CSCT) can be made by downloading and completing our referral form. 


The Disabled Children’s Social Work Team 

The Disabled Children’s Social Work Team can assess families with children who have severe and complex disabilities who may need: 

  • more hours of short breaks above the Short Breaks Basic Offer 
  • special provision such as hospice care, overnight stays or residential placements, 
  • help to help them during a time of change. 

An assessment will consider your family’s needs, the support and resources already available to you including from friends and family. 

Families and professionals can make referrals to the team directly by phone or email.  

Shaping Short Break Services


Our Short Breaks offer has been developed in response to ongoing involvement and feedback from children, young people, families and professionals 

In the past eleven years we have actively sought feedback by: 

  • talking to children and young people at short break activities, school councils and focus groups  
  • talking with parents and carers on the phone, via email, at parents evening, coffee mornings, forum meetings and focus groups  
  • talking with professionals from Health, Social Care, Education and the Voluntary Sector  
  • asking families comments about the services by phone, in person and using feedback forms 
  • monitoring the demand for different services 

Young people and parents have also been involved in commissioning, writing publicity and decisions about funding. 

We work closely with others including the Islington Parent Carer Forum to support parents and carers in shaping short break services in Islington. 


Co-producing the Short Breaks Offer 

In the last eleven years the following changes have been agreed: 

  • planning short break services further in advance 
  • creating better facilities and paying for new equipment  
  • providing disability awareness training for staff and specialist training for staff at universal, targeted and specialist services 
  • redesigning the short breaks statement to make the different levels of service clearer 
  • changing the basic offer of targeted short breaks for under 5s 
  • offering a range of new 1:1 Short Breaks Outreach services. 
  • increasing the Short Breaks cash alternative to keep pace with the London Living Wage
  • introducing pre-paid cards 
  • clearer transition pathways and a Transition Protocol from children’s social care to adult social care


Priorities for developing short breaks:  

  1. Consult and co-produce the Short Breaks Offer for 2024 and commission services accordingly
  2. Improve SEND inclusion at the mainstream adventure playgrounds and holiday childcare settings
  3. Change the format of the Short Breaks Statement to make it more accessible
  4. Promote Short Breaks and the SEND Local Offer so more families know about it. 

We regularly review this statement and next one will published in January 2024. It is available in other formats and languages on request.  

Information about the range of short breaks services in Islington is also provided through: 

  • Responding to phone or email enquiries 
  • The Islington Parents Forum 
  • Talks and visits to local schools 
  • Providers of short breaks services 
  • Meetings for staff teams across Early Help, Social Care, Health and the voluntary sector  
  • The SEND Local Offer website

Related articles