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Councillors to discuss proposed changes to short breaks for children with disabilities

Norfolk County Council, 16 November 2023 00:00

Proposals to increase the range of short breaks for children with disabilities and open them up to siblings and other family members are to be discussed by councillors tomorrow.

Norfolk County Council wants to change how it supports children with disabilities, by funding short breaks that best meet children's needs, are closer to their homes and can support their wider family.

It follows consultation over the summer, which looked at moving from a model that assigns a specific budget to a family, based on a child's disability, to a new approach that would look at a child's needs and work with their family to find the right activities to help them flourish.

The budget for short breaks will continue to be £3.5m per year and the council has pledged that children will not have their activities reduced. The approach, which is also used by other local authorities, is much more focused on children's outcomes and interests, rather than their disability. It also means the council has greater flexibility to buy services for multiple children from some activity providers, meaning that more children could benefit from a break.

The council wants to expand the activities it buys for families, to offer more options and flexibility. This might mean changes in some of the funding parents receive to buy activities directly, but the value of the package of breaks will remain the same, or increase.

Part of the council's strategy is also to support existing activity providers to support children with disabilities, where it is appropriate for the needs of the child, so that they can access fun inclusive activities in their own community alongside their peers.

The proposals and the feedback from public consultation will be discussed by the council's People and Communities Select Committee when it meets on 17 November.

Cllr Fran Whymark, Chairman of the People and Communities Select Committee, said: "Short breaks provide fun activities for children and respite for their families. We know that they are a real lifeline for families, which is why it's important that we get any changes to what we are offering right and why we consulted with families who use the service before implementing any changes.

"I welcome any proposal which focuses on looking at what is best for individual children, and their families, and which provides greater choice and more local activities, particularly given the rural nature of Norfolk."

Norfolk County Council ran a consultation with families between 27 June and 2 August and had more than 200 responses, 43% of people agreed or strongly agreed with the change in the assessment process and 31% disagreed or strongly disagreed. The remainder didn't answer, didn't agree or disagree, or didn't know. Eighty-two percent agreed or strongly agreed that activities should be opened up to family members, including siblings. 

Cllr Penny Carpenter, Cabinet Member for Children's Services at Norfolk County Council, said: "I completely understand that some parents will feel apprehensive about any changes we might make to short breaks because they want the very best experiences for their child.

"I want to reassure them that that's what we want too, and we want to work with families to plan short breaks that can best meet their children's needs, rather that basing a child's needs on a sum of money and then matching that to activities. Although the money on the pre-payment card could change for some families, the provision and range of activities won't. We want to make sure children are getting the support that is right for them."

If agreed, the changes would apply to new children accessing short breaks from April 2024. Other children would move to the new model gradually, as their package comes up for review.

View the full report to committee on CMIS.  

Last modified: 14 May 2024 12:46

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