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Short breaks (respite care)

Being a parent carer of a child or young person with special educational needs and or disabilities (SEND) we know can be difficult, and you may need some time to help you cope with family life. Short breaks are designed to help you have a break from your caring responsibilities.

We are keeping our short breaks under review in line with guidance and needs of families.

Contact us to share your views with us.

Short Breaks transcript (PDF) [99KB]

Short breaks are different for every family. They will depend on your family's needs, but may include:

  • getting support from your networks (your friends, family and people who are involved with your family)
  • an activity your child attends gives you some time to yourself
  • an activity that you do without your child
  • something you do as a whole family

Short breaks:

  • Allow you time for you to look after your physical and mental health wellbeing and spend time with your friends and family
  • Allow your child to develop new interests, keep fit, be more independent, spend time with their friends and take part in hobbies.

Where possible, short breaks will be provided through your child accessing activities and groups in the community. These are not just groups that are just for young people with SEND. If there is something that is stopping you being able to take part in a short break, we will work with you to help you access the break you need.

This may include your child:

  • taking part in a virtual activity
  • going to a leisure facility
  • taking part in a physical activity
  • going to a local youth activity for a few hours per week
  • receiving additional support and sometimes very specialist support to help them access the community.

A small number of children/young people, who have had their needs assessed, may sleep overnight at a children's residential setting to give you a break.

How we support parent carers

Parent carers support

We provide funding to Durham County Carers Supportto work with parents carers to understand what they need to support them in their caring role, including short breaks from caring and how these needs can be met.

Advice, signposting and enable access

We provide a central point of contact, through SEND - Empowering Inclusive Communities (SENDEIC), to help you find a suitable activity in your local community that your child/young person can attend which will allow you a short break.SENDEIC will work with you if you need a break from caring but are struggling to find a suitable activity for your child.  We will work together to help remove barriers, fill any gaps in provision and enable access wherever possible.

You can contact them by telephoning 03000 260 270 or by emailing

We also support families to access affordable activities through a discount card, the MAX card. To get your MAX card you will need to be registered with the Children and Young Peoples Network. You can find out more and register at Children and Young People's Network

Community activities with additional support for your child

If the community activities available are not suitable for your child's needs, we can refer you to access activities with additional support. This is an offer where the additional support needed is paid for by the council and health services to keep costs down for families. These activities are provided by groups who have additional training and expertise to support children and young people with SEND. You don't need a social care assessment to access these, SENDEIC can refer you. You can contact them by telephoning 03000 260 270 or by emailing

Specialist support

Some families require more support than what can be offered through the additional support offer. For example, your child might need a more specialist level of support, longer duration of session, or a different type of service.

Durham County Carers Support will work with you to understand your needs as a parent/carer. They may refer you to First Contact, where a social worker will work with you to understand your needs and complete a full assessment.

The assessment may show that you need some specialist support to allow the short breaks to be provided for your family. The assessment will go to a funding panel made up of social care, education and health staff. This will decide whether you are able to receive funding to meet your needs, or an alternative solution may be recommended. You may receive these services through direct payments or through a range of specialist services for short breaks.

How do we know what parent carers need?

The Children and Young Peoples Network is Durham's Children's Disability Register. We use information from the register to engage with families and find out whether their needs are being met, the impact of the offer in allowing short breaks and if there are any gaps in meeting needs or changes we need to make.

So, please make sure you are registered.

The  Short Breaks Statement (PDF) [2MB] will provide you with more detailed information on the short breaks offer in County Durham, any eligibility and how this can be accessed.


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