Breaks Away


Short Breaks: Assessment, Planning and Review

Short Breaks Scheme for Disabled Children Procedure


Short Breaks: Statutory guidance on how to safeguard and promote the welfare of disabled children using short breaks (DCSF, 2010)


The Breaks Away Scheme provides overnight stays for disabled children in the homes of approved foster carers. Reimbursements to foster carers providing care under the Breaks Away scheme will be incorporated into the conditions of the Payment of Skills fees and fostering allowances paid to all foster carers.

1. Introduction

The Breaks Away scheme is established to provide overnight stays to disabled children in the homes of approved foster carers. The service is aimed at disabled children who have assessed needs and who have been presented to and approved by the multi-agency Short Breaks Panel.

The emphasis of the provision of a service via Breaks Away is on partnership with the parents/carers of the child. They retain responsibility for ensuring that the child's general needs are met appropriately. This includes health, education, physical and emotional needs.

The foster carers will be accountable for meeting the child's needs in consultation with the parents whilst the child is in the placement. Consent from the parents/carers will be delegated to the foster carers for the period that the child is in the placement and provision of foster care cannot be accessed without this agreement.

All children being referred to the scheme must have a current allocated worker from the Disabled Children's Team and a completed Child and Family Single Assessment Record for children who are disabled.

Approval for provision of overnight stays by means of the Breaks Away scheme must have been given at the Short Breaks Panel. Once this approval has been obtained, a referral can be made to the Fostering Team for access to the Breaks Away scheme.

Number of overnight stays

A decision about the number of overnight stays per year will be made by the Short Breaks Panel. This will be based on the needs of the child and his/her family.

It is envisaged that a regular short break will be provided to each child accepted onto the scheme. The short break can happen at any time during the week.

In addition, the Breaks Away scheme will offer a block of 1 week per year to each child. It is intended that this will be with the matched foster carer.

2. Referrals to Breaks Away

When a referral for Breaks Away is to be made to the Short Breaks Panel, the Fostering Team Manager should be informed by the allocated worker so that a social worker from the Fostering Team can attend the Panel meeting.

Following approval at the Short Breaks Panel, the Fostering Team should be provided with copies of the information submitted to this Panel (completed Child and Family Single Assessment (Children with Disabilities) and Short Breaks Panel Information Summary.

3. Matching Child and Foster Carer

The information provided as specified in Section 2, Referrals to Breaks Away will be examined by the Fostering Team Duty Worker. A potential carer may be identified at that point or a search for a suitable carer will be commenced. The referring Disabled Children's Team worker will be notified of the action being taken by the Fostering Team Duty Worker within 7 working days.

A match between child and foster carer will be made on the basis of:

  1. Level of the child's disability with the skill of the carer;
  2. Type of household of the carer with the child's needs;
  3. Period of time being requested and particular days involved;
  4. Geographical issues;
  5. Parent and foster carer agreement to share relevant information.

A potential foster carer needs to have full information about the child and their situation upon which to base decision to proceed with meeting. All foster carers agree to maintain the confidentiality of children in their care or for whom they are approached about care.

It is important that the child's parents/carers are provided with information about the proposed match so that they can make an informed decision as to whether to proceed with meeting the foster carer. For this reason, the foster carers' Fostering Social Worker will provide the worker from the Disabled Children's Team with a 'pen picture' of the proposed foster carer for sharing with the child's parents/carers

Once a foster carer has been identified, the Fostering Social Worker will contact the worker from the Disabled Children's Team to arrange an initial meeting.

At that meeting, the workers from the two Teams will meet with the potential foster carer and the child and their parents/carers. This meeting should be held at a mutually convenient venue and time. The goal of this meeting is for both the parents/carers and the foster carer to decide whether they wish to proceed to more formal introductions. No-one should feel under any obligation to proceed.

4. Introductions and Placement Agreement

A Placement Agreement must be completed prior to the placement by the foster carer's Fostering Social Worker.

The introduction process may well be different for each child. The child's needs are paramount and the pace of the introductions should be matched to the needs of the child.

All parties must be aware that the sharing of relevant information is essential to ensure that the placement is successful. The information will be kept confidential and the parent/carers are asked to do the same with the information they receive.

Prior to the placement, the parent/carer must have given written consent to the requirements of the relevant regulations in relation to Children Looked After being implemented, i.e. statutory social work visits to the child in the placement, the holding of reviews chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer and the change in legal status of the child. The Children Looked After documentation must be completed by the social worker/community nurse and the parent/carers. Written consent regarding health issues must also be obtained. This is in addition to the delegation of consent for emergency treatment and must include consent for the foster carer to administer medication or other treatments as necessary.

There must also be agreement with the parents about transport issues during the period of foster care. Foster carers must ensure that they have full comprehensive insurance and are insured to use their vehicle for business use.

If the child requires an adapted vehicle and the parent/carers are prepared to permit the foster carer to use this, written agreement must be obtained stating that this has been agreed and the foster carer must be identified as the named driver on the insurance policy. Any damage or injury caused will be insured through the vehicle owner insurance and a claim must be made on this insurance for any payments.

Discussion about transport will also include transport to and from the placement.

The foster carer should have a copy of the child's Care Plan. They should assist the child to understand the plans, contribute to their reviews and help to ensure that they get access to advocacy services where appropriate.

5. Building Adaptations

The adaptation of foster carers' properties will depend on the commitment to providing foster care for children with disabilities, the range of needs that the foster carer is able to meet and the level of care which can be provided to children wishing to access the Breaks Away scheme.

The financial commitment to adapt a property will be secured by a contract between Calderdale MBC and the foster carer.

6. Recruitment, Assessment and Training of Foster Carers


Foster carers who are able to provide foster care for children with a range of disabilities will be paid at Level 4 - see Foster Carer Payment for Skills Scheme). These carers will provide successive placements on a full time basis to children with disabilities. They will be able to manage placements of several children in succession. Built into their Foster Care Agreements, will be a planned break of at least 24 hours between placements in addition to the agreed 4 weeks' holiday a year.

Level 4 carers will be expected to deal with a wide range of disabilities and challenging behaviours. The properties of these carers may need to be adapted to meet the identified needs of the children placed.

In addition, there will be a group of carers who will be trained to provide placements to children of less challenging behaviours. Some of these carers may only be able to provide placements to one child and they would be matched with that child for the duration of that child's use of the Breaks Away scheme. These carers will be assessed at Levels 1 to 3 dependent of knowledge, skill and experience.

Recruitment of carers for the Breaks Away scheme will be undertaken by the Fostering Team using the usual methods.

Please also see: Responding to Enquiries about Fostering Procedure.


All potential carers for the Breaks Away scheme must attend the pre-approval Skills to Foster Group as part of the assessment process. Additionally, there will be an extra training day which will cover issues relating to children with a disability. Attendance at this additional day is mandatory.

Following approval, all Short Breaks foster carers must complete further training within the first 12 months. Suggested topics are:

  1. Disability Awareness;
  2. Partnership with parents/carers;
  3. Communication Methods;
  4. Moving and Handling;
  5. Age appropriate toys and play;
  6. Managing challenging situations.

If a match is made for a child who has specific needs for which training is necessary, this will be provided prior to the commencement of the placement. This will be identified by the parents and the foster carer and will be co-ordinated by the worker from the Disabled Children's Team. Advice can be sought from the Breaks Away Scheme co-ordinator

All carers will receive a Training Manual shortly after approval. It is the responsibility of each carer to apply for training modules which interest them. This is done in conjunction with their Fostering Social Worker.

See also: Supervision and Support of Foster Carers Procedure.


The assessment process for applicants interested in providing short breaks will be the same as for any other foster carer (initial interview, pre-approval Assessment/Preparation Group, home study, presentation to Fostering Panel - see Assessment of Prospective Foster Carers Procedure) with the addition of the extra day's training specifically for disability issues. Issues which will also be considered are the ability to care for specific areas of disability and/or challenging behaviours.

7. Review of Placements

Children receiving a series of short breaks overnight are regarded as Children Looked After - usually under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989. As such, they will be reviewed in accordance with the statutory requirements as follows:

  1. Under Section 20 Children Act 1989, with short breaks of not more than 17 days each in the same setting (where the total number of placement days does not exceed 75 in any 12-month period). In these circumstances an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) must be appointed, and a Short Break Care Plan drawn up. The 2010 Regulations are modified (Regulation 48), so that Child Looked After Reviews and Social Worker Visits are less frequent and the short breaks are treated as a single placement.
  2. Under Section 20 Children Act 1989, where the short breaks exceed a total of 17 days per placement/75 days per 12-month period and/or take place in more than one setting. In these circumstances an IRO must be appointed and a Care Plan drawn up. The 2010 Regulations apply in full, including the provisions on frequency of Child Looked After Reviews and Social Worker Visits.

In situation a) above, visits should take place at regular intervals to be agreed with the IRO and parents/person(s) with Parental Responsibility and recorded in the Short Break Care Plan before the start of the first placement. In any event:

  • The first visit must take place within 3 months of the first placement day or as soon as practicable thereafter;
  • Subsequent visits must take place at intervals of no more than 6 months for as long as the short breaks continue.

In situation b) above visits must take place:

  • Within 1 week of the start of the placement;
  • Thereafter, at intervals of no more than 6 weeks for the first year.

The resource under this scheme will be offered for an initial period of 12 months and will be reviewed by the Short Breaks Panel at a minimum of 12 monthly intervals to ensure that the placement continues to be an appropriate way of meeting the child's identified needs. This will be in addition to the Looked After Review outlined above.

8. Grievance Procedure

It is anticipated that the child, parent and foster carer will build and develop a supportive and understanding relationship in which all parties feel comfortable to discuss any minor issues which may arise.

If there are areas of disagreement which cannot be resolved directly by the foster carer and the child's parent, resolution should be sought by taking the problem to either the Fostering Social Worker (in the case of the foster carer) or the worker from the Disabled Children's Team (in the case of the child or parent).

These workers will liaise to bring about a suitable resolution. If a speedy resolution cannot be agreed, consideration should be given as to whether the placement should be suspended pending an outcome.

Once the grievance is resolved and it is decided that the placement should continue, a meeting should be held to ensure that the relationships between the family and the foster carers are re-established and that all involved are satisfied with the outcome of the grievance.

Any allegation of abuse made against the foster carer or member of the foster carer's family will be investigated in accordance with the Allegations and Complaints Against Foster Carers Procedure. The placement will be suspended pending the outcome of this investigation.

If disagreements arise between workers from the Fostering and Disabled Children's Teams regarding the provision of the service, these should be discussed with the respective Team Managers and resolution sought. This may necessitate a joint meeting with both workers and managers.