Short Breaks for Disabled Children to be Hit by Budget Cuts

Budget cuts to services supporting Bristol’s disabled children are set to be approved by Cabinet this week. A proposal to reduce the Short Breaks for Disabled Children budget by £273,340, will hit disabled children hard, especially those in deprived areas and from minoritised ethnic backgrounds.

Short Breaks – which are already in short supply in Bristol – is a form of family support providing disabled children and young people with a break.

These range from overnight care, weekend or holiday activities, which in theory should also allow parents and carers to have a break from their caring responsibilities.

But papers to Cabinet this week includes cuts to Family Support and Inclusion Services, Direct Payments, overnight residential units, targeted short breaks such as clubs and activities as well as holiday activities.

Papers say: ‘The current Short Breaks Service is tasked to work with Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, some of whom will be in care. Therefore, the proposal will directly impact on the protected characteristics age and disability. As above, our diversity monitoring shows that Short Breaks are used more by children and families in areas of the Bristol with high than average levels of deprivation. Two thirds of service users are boys, and a higher proportion of children and families from minoritised ethnic backgrounds access Short Breaks in Bristol, compared to the overall population of Bristol.

‘A reduced budget will mean less capacity within the service and could result in staff redundancies or not filling vacant posts. The budget reduction is likely to affect the general short breaks offer and may result families being offered fewer short breaks per months. This in turn carries the risk of increased household stress leading to an increase in families reaching crisis and more children coming into care.’

By way of mitigations, the council says it will take the opportunity to look at other sources of funding as well as a bid to the Department for Education’s Short Breaks Innovation Fund.

The council says they will also ‘work with universal/mainstream services to ensure they are compliant with the equalities act and that their services are accessible by disabled children and young people.’

The short breaks offer by the council is already under review with recommissioning due in April this year. The council aims to review and redesign services with children as well as their parent carers to ‘continue to meet needs at a reduced budget level’.

One way they say they will do this is by increasing lower cost early intervention services to prevent escalating issues, despite short breaks being for parent carers of disabled children without additional ‘multiagency intervention’ needs.

A Bristol parent carer told us: “It’s already next to impossible to access some of these short breaks because of the number of children who are also eligible. It concerns me that such a large budget cut is happening. I think we will see families not being able to have a short break at all.”


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