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Direct payments pre-paid cards

What is a pre-paid card?

If you have been approved for Short Breaks and are paying for activities through direct payments, you may be given a pre-paid card. This is a card with a set amount of money on it. You can use this to pay for activities for the child or young person eligible for Short Breaks.


How to get a pre-paid card

A pre-paid card is one of the options that is agreed as part of a child or young person's Short Breaks plan. Once agreed, the Short Breaks team will set up the bank account and you will be sent a pre-paid card.


Using the pre-paid card

We will send you a guide with your pre-paid card explaining how to use it. If you need another guide contact the Short Breaks team to ask for one.

Keep your receipts

Every time you use the card you must get a receipt and upload it to your online account. The guide explains how to do this.

If you cannot upload your receipts online, do keep them. We can give you a receipt recording sheet for each receipt. Attach the receipt to the back of the sheet ready to send to us at your child's Short Breaks plan renewal date, or sooner if we ask you to. Contact the Short Breaks team to ask for receipt recording sheets.

If you do not keep your receipts, you will be asked to repay the money or this may be deducted from the following year's budget.


What you can use it for

The money on the card is for the activities agreed in the child or young person's Short Breaks plan. It cannot be used to pay for things such as food, drinks, transport, petrol, car parking, clothes, gift vouchers/cards or railcards.

The card can be used to pay for Short Breaks activities that take place after school, at weekends, and during school holidays. It cannot be used during school hours, even if your child is home schooled or if you choose to holiday during this time.  

If you buy items not included in a child or young person's Short Breaks plan you will be asked to repay the money. Contact the Short Breaks team if you need to check if something is allowed. 

Holidays and trips

The Short Breaks funding doesn't cover holidays in the UK or abroad including mini-breaks or any overnight stays including caravans, tents, hotels, or private homes. However, when you are on holiday in the UK and abroad you can use the card for your child to access Short Breaks activities, providing it is during the school holidays. 

You can't use the card to pay for school trips during school term times. However, you can pay for activities and trips during the school holidays which are run by organisations such as scouting, guiding camps or holiday centres such as Kingswood or PGL.

If your child is going to a group or activity, it is your responsibility as the parent/carer to make sure that the organisation or individual providing the activity has a clear safeguarding policy in place and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks (if applicable) have been carried out.

Toys and equipment

You can use up to £250 of your budget to spend on toys, games and play equipment. The items that you want to buy must be suitable for your child's needs and age, and from a reputable retailer. The retailer must offer a guarantee or returns policy. This is to make sure the items you are buying are safe.

You can't use Short Breaks funding to buy sensory toys or equipment that requires a medical professional's input to buy. If you aren't sure contact the Short Breaks team.

We will not fund second-hand items as the seller can't ensure product safety and usually won't offer a returns policy if something goes wrong.

Family/group tickets

The money is only to be used for the child named in the Short Breaks plan. If you want to buy a family or group ticket for an event or activity you will need to pay for that yourself, but you can get a discount. Check how much a single ticket for the child named in the Short Breaks plan would be and you can take this off the price of a family or group ticket. Transfer the remainder into the direct payments account and use the pre-paid card to buy the family ticket.

For example, if the cost of the family ticket is £50 and the cost of a single ticket for the child is £10, then you would transfer £40 to your account and then use the pre-paid card to buy the family ticket.

Carers' tickets

Many companies offer free admission for a carer of a child with disabilities. Some companies also offer a concessionary priced ticket which can be funded using the pre-paid card. The card cannot be used to pay for a full price adult ticket.

If your child always requires 2 carers contact the Short Breaks team as this will need to be agreed as part of your Short Breaks plan.


You can use Short Breaks funding to buy physical subscriptions for activities, such as children's crafts or baking. Short Breaks funding does not cover digital subscriptions such as Amazon Prime, Amazon Video, Netflix, Xbox Live, etc.


Problems with your card

The activity provider will only accept cash

We do not allow families to withdraw cash or pay with cash from their account. You can ask the provider to give you an invoice/bill with their bank account details. The pre-paid card guide explains how to pay using these details.

Card is lost, stolen or not working

Contact the customer services team on 0203 633 1625, who will put a stop on the card for security purposes. Then contact our direct payments admin team on 01603 638170 to request a replacement card.

Need to change name, address, phone number or other contact details

Contact the direct payment support service on 01603 223392, option 1 to change your details.

For any other issues with the pre-paid card contact the Short Breaks team.


Frequently asked questions

We've put together a fact sheet which covers some frequently asked questions. View the Direct Payments Pre-paid Card Fact Sheet (PDF) [141KB].


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