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4.1.4 Short Breaks

SCOPE OF CHAPTER

This procedure is based on Short Breaks - Statutory Guidance on How to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Disabled Children Using Short Breaks. It applies to all children but especially disabled children and their families. It sets out the process for deciding whether the service should be provided under Section 17 or Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and how this decision should be recorded.

See also Derbyshire County Council Website – Short Break Services.

Friendship For All (The Children’s Society) - this online resource aims to increase friendships for children who are in foster care or who use short break services. 


Contents

  1. Introduction and Guidance
  2. Assessment
  3. The Child in Need Plan
  4. The Short Break Care Plan
  5. The Care Planning Regulations
  6. General Requirements for the Provision of Short Breaks

    Appendix 1: Providing Short Break Accommodation under Different Legal Provisions

    Appendix 2: Deciding which Provision is most appropriate for the Child: Recording Template


1. Introduction and Guidance

1.1 What is the Guidance?

Short Breaks - Statutory Guidance on How to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Disabled Children Using Short Breaks is statutory guidance under the Children Act 1989. It is part of The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review. It clarifies when a child receiving a short break service should, or should not, be looked after and applies to disabled children and other children in need.

1.2 What is a Short Break Service?

(Statutory Guidance paragraphs 2.1, 2.2).

The Local Authority has a duty to provide short breaks for disabled children. A short break:

  • Means a day, evening, overnight and weekend activities for the child or young person (or an equivalent resource allocated via a direct payment or personal budget);
  • Can be provided in the child’s own home, the home of an approved carer, or in a residential or community setting;
  • Has two aims:
    • To enable the child to participate in fun, interesting and safe activities; and
    • Provide a break from caring for the parents.

1.3 How is it Provided?

(Statutory Guidance paragraph 2.4 and Section 4 below).

The Local Authority can provide short break services as part of a wider plan for a child in 2 different ways under the Children Act 1989:

  • Section 17(6) of the 1989 Act, which grants Local Authorities a general power to provide accommodation as part of a range of services to fulfil a duty safeguard or promote a child’s welfare; and
  • Section 20(4) of the 1989 Act, which requires local authorities to provide accommodation for children who need it to safeguard or promote their welfare.


2. Assessment

2.1 Processes and Timescales

(Statutory Guidance paragraphs 3.7, 3.8).

Where a child appears to have additional needs which are not being met through existing services, the Single Assessment Process should be followed.

Please refer to Single Assessment Process: Overview Procedure for guidance and timescales about this process.

2.2 The Child’s and Family’s Needs

(Statutory Guidance paragraph 2.8).

An assessment should cover the following considerations:

  • Particular vulnerabilities of the child, including communication method;
  • Parenting capacity of the parents within their family and environmental context;
  • Wider family and environmental factors;
  • The length of time away from home;
  • The frequency of such stays:
    • The less time the child spends away from home the more likely it is to be appropriate to provide accommodation under section 17(6).
  • Whether short breaks are to be provided in more than one place:
    • Where the child spends short breaks in different settings, including residential schools, hospices and social care placements, it is more likely to be appropriate to provide accommodation under section 20(4).
  • Potential impact on the child’s place in the family and on primary  attachments;
  • Observation of the child (especially children who do not communicate verbally) during or immediately after the break by a person familiar with the mood and behaviour of the child (for example the parent or school staff);
  • Views of the child and views of parents - some children and parents may be reassured by, and in favour of, the status of a Looked After Child, while others may resent the implications and associations of looked after status;
  • Extent of contact between short break carers and family and between the child and family during the placement;
  • Distance from home; and
  • The need for an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) to monitor the child’s case and to chair reviews.

2.3 The Parents’ and Carers’ Needs

(Statutory Guidance paragraph 3.13).

The needs of parent / carers are an integral part of an Assessment. Providing services which meet the needs of parents is often the most effective means of promoting the welfare of children, in particular disabled children.

The approach in Derbyshire is that carers’ needs are included within the child’s assessment.  Therefore, as part of the assessment process, parents/carers will be asked to explain all aspects of their caring role to ensure that services provided take proper account of their needs and capacities as parents/carers as well as the assessed needs of their child.

  • If this identifies that the parent/carers have their own additional needs in their own right there should be consideration of a referral/self-referral to the appropriate Adult Service.


3. The Child in Need Plan

3.1 The Written Plan

(Statutory Guidance paragraph 3.16).

Where a formal assessment has taken place, it should lead to a written Child in Need Plan, or Support Plan, that sets out all the services, or resources, to be provided to meet the child’s needs.  This should bring together all short break services to be provided and show how they will meet the needs of the child and family identified in the assessment and achieve the identified outcomes. It will:

  • Have clear and realistic objectives;
  • Include ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child and views of the family;
  • Follow consideration of options, including, but not limited, to direct payments;
  • State the nature and frequency of services, as far as is practicable, including health and social care in the same plan, especially if short breaks are provided from different agencies;
  • State the child’s health, emotional and behavioural development including full details about any disabilities and clinical needs the child may have and medications they may require;
  • State the child’s specific communication needs, especially for children who communicate non-verbally, and include the child’s likes and dislikes with particular regard to leisure activities;
  • Include the results of all necessary risk assessments which could include, depending on the child’s impairment, moving and handling, invasive procedures, and behaviour;
  • State contact arrangements for emergencies;
  • State commitments of professionals involved;
  • Refer to or summarise any other important documents about the child’s development;
  • Confirm those caring for the child have been selected following the advice set out in Government guidance on Direct Payments;
  • Emphasise transition planning for those aged 14-16 years;
  • Outline arrangements to review the plan at least 6 monthly;
  • Be made available as necessary in accessible formats.

3.2 Deciding Which Provision Is Most Appropriate For The Child

(Statutory Guidance paragraphs 2.7-2.813).

The key question to ask is how to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child most effectively. The assessment, planning and review processes for children in need may be appropriate or the additional requirements for looked after children may be more appropriate, depending on the circumstances of the child and family. Before making, and when reviewing, a decision about whether to provide accommodation under Section 17(6) or Section 20(4) of the 1989 Act there should be a careful assessment of the child’s and family’s needs that addresses the following considerations:

  • Particular vulnerabilities of the child, including communication method;
  • Parenting capacity of the parents within their family and environmental context;
  • Wider family and environmental factors;
  • The length of time away from home and the frequency of such stays - the less time the child spends away from home the more likely it is to be appropriate to provide accommodation under Section 17(6);
  • Whether short breaks are to be provided in more than one place - where the child spends short breaks in different settings, including residential schools, hospices and social care placements, it is more likely to be appropriate to provide accommodation under Section 20(4);
  • Potential impact on the child’s place in the family and on primary attachments;
  • Observation of the child (especially children who do not communicate verbally) during or immediately after the break by a person familiar with the mood and behaviour of the child (for example the parent or school staff);
  • Views of the child and views of parents - some children and parents may be reassured by, and in favour of, the status of a looked after child, while others may resent the implications and associations of looked after status;
  • Extent of contact between short break carers and family and between the child and family during the placement;
  • Distance from home; and
  • The need for an IRO to monitor the child’s case and to chair reviews.

See also Appendix 2: Deciding which Provision is Most Appropriate for the Child: Recording Template.

3.3 The Child’s Legal Status - Section 17 (6) and Section 20 (4)

A child is not Looked After when s/he receives a short break under Section 17(6), which may include accommodation, nor where the Local Authority provides a sitter or overnight carer in the child’s own home.

Where the assessment indicates that:

  • The child requires, or is already receiving, a substantial package* of short breaks, sometimes in more than one setting; and
  • The child’s family may have difficulties providing support to their child or monitoring the quality of care s/he is receiving while s/he is away from home, Derbyshire County Council will presume that the service should be provided under Section 20(4) unless, in consultation with the parents:
    • They are satisfied that there is no need for the higher levels of monitoring that would be provided; or
    • Parental agreement to accommodation under Section 20 has not been given.

*Substantial’ will include circumstances where a child is away from home receiving a service for 17 consecutive days or longer or who has, in any given period of 12 months, more than 75 days away from home in any setting (see below).

A break, for example, from Saturday morning to Sunday evening would count as 2 days.

Under Section 20(4) a child is looked after for any period of accommodation provided for a continuous period of more than 24 hours:

  • Providing accommodation on this basis has no effect on the parents’ Parental Responsibility and, of course, parents can remove the child from the accommodation at any time;
  • Any overnight placement must be one with Local Authority foster parents, in a registered children’s home or in other appropriate arrangements such as with a foster carer approved by an independent fostering agency, a boarding school or a hospice.

Any arrangement made by a parent/carer which is not funded by the Local Authority, or is provided as part of a Education, Health and Care Plan is outside the scope of social care short breaks, but will be considered in any assessment and support plan. Thus, where the child also spends time in short breaks in other settings, the additional planning and reviewing requirements may mean that it will be appropriate to provide the accommodation under Section 20(4).


4. The Short Break Care Plan

4.1 The Plan to Deliver the Short Breaks

Following an assessment, short breaks can be arranged in a number of settings which are subject to different registration and inspection requirements intended to ensure that children using short breaks are safe and well looked after.

Where overnight stays are included the statutory guidance provides a threefold approach to the provision of the short break plan:

  • Under Section 17;
  • Full compliance with regulations under Section 20 for those with substantial packages; and
  • Partial compliance for those with lesser packages (Regulation 48 exemption).

4.2 Where the Short Break Care Plan is provided under Section 17(6)

(Statutory Guidance paragraphs 2.20, 2.21).

The short break care plan for services provided under Section 17(6) should be linked to the Child in Need Plan and include that information which is necessary in order to allow those caring for the child, do so safely and sensitively and to promote good outcomes for the child.

The plan must include information about:

  • The child’s health, emotional and behavioural development including full details about any disabilities, clinical needs and medications the child may have;
  • The child’s specific communication needs;
  • Arrangements for contacting the parents as necessary, in particular, an emergency contact number;
  • The child’s likes, dislikes and routines with particular regard to his/her leisure interests; and
  • How the carers, as appropriate, promote the child’s educational achievement (for example, visits undertaken by the carers with the child may complement the child’s school learning, or some help with homework may be required especially if the child goes to school directly from the short break before returning home).

The plan should include:

  • The type and address of the accommodation and the name of the person responsible;
  • How long the arrangement is expected to last and steps to take to end or change the arrangements;
  • Relevant aspects of the child’s history and information about his/her religious and cultural background and how such matters affect the child’s daily routine;
  • Any delegation of Parental Responsibility to the responsible authority or to those who have care of the child, for example, in the case of a medical emergency, or participation in specific activities;
  • Financial arrangements for the placement; and
  • When the child is placed with a person who is approved as a Local Authority foster carer, confirmation of the foster care agreement.

The plan for some disabled children may also require a risk assessment in respect of moving and handling, behaviour management and/or certain clinical procedures:

  • Carers may also be required to complete relevant training and, as necessary, competency assessments;
  • It should be signed off by: the child’s parents, the child’s social worker, the provider agencies/services, those providing the care and where appropriate, the child.

Since the child is not looked after there is no requirement to appoint an Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) - the arrangements for undertaking reviews will be determined by the responsible service manager with regard for the needs and complexity of the case.

4.3 Where the Short Break Care Plan is provided under Section 20(4)

(See also Section 5.1, Regulation 48).

Regulation 48 (reduced requirements) applies where:

  • The child is provided with accommodation under Section 20(4) for a continuous period of more than 24 hours; and
  • Short breaks are pre-planned and in the same place; and
  • No break lasts more than 17 days; and
  • The total does not exceed 75 days in one year.

The child is Looked After for the period that s/he is provided with accommodation:

  • The 2010 Regulations apply with modifications in respect of planning  arrangements;
  • There must be a Short Break Care Plan addressing issues key to the safe care of the child;
  • An IRO must be appointed; 
  • The first visit by the child’s social worker must take place as far as is practicable within three months of the first placement day or as soon as practicable thereafter;
  • Subsequent visits should be at intervals of no more than six months; the child’s case must be reviewed within three months of the start of the first placement, thereafter at least six monthly.

4.4 Where the Short Break Care Plan is Provided under Section 20(4) Substantial Care Package

Regulation 48 does not apply where:

  • The child is provided with accommodation under Section 20(4) for a continuous period of more than 24 hours;
  • Breaks may be with a range of providers or exceed 17 days or 75 days in one year.

The child is looked after for the period that s/he is provided with accommodation:

  • The 2010 Regulations in respect of planning arrangements apply without modifications;
  • There must be a short break care plan addressing issues key to the safe care of the child;
  • An IRO must be appointed;
  • Visits must take place in accordance with Regulation 28:
    • Within one week of the start of any placement;
    • Not less than 6 weekly in the first year;
    • Weekly if a placement is made with a carer prior to the completion of the assessment of the carer.
  • The child’s case must be reviewed regularly;
  • The first review must be within 20 days of the start of the first placement, the second within three months, thereafter at least six monthly.


5. The Care Planning Regulations

5.1 Regulation 48

There is no requirement for a Care Plan or Placement Plan, a Health Assessment or Placement Notifications but the Short Break Care Plan must include all of the information set out above:

  • Visits to the placement to see the child must be initially within 3 months thereafter 6 monthly or more frequently as agreed with the IRO/parent;
  • The requirement to review is initially within 3 months thereafter 6 monthly.

5.2 Visits to Children in Short Breaks

Visits to children in short breaks are seen as an important opportunity for a representative of the Authority to ensure that the placement is meeting the child’s needs:

  • Visits must take place at regular intervals, be agreed with the IRO and the child’s parent and be recorded in the short break plan before the start of the placement;
  • The visitor should usually be a qualified social worker and in every case should be a person with the skills and experience to communicate effectively with the child and fulfil the functions of the visit. 

5.3 Reviews

A review will usually include a face to face meeting but in some cases, regular review meetings may not be necessary. Generally it should be possible to include a review of short breaks with a review of other aspects of a child’s health, education or development, where some of the same people will already be together. In other cases, a review might not have to be a meeting.

  • The first review for children in short breaks should take place within three months of the start of their first placement, thereafter six monthly;
  • The review may be a person-centred review especially where a young person is aged 14 or over.


6. General Requirements for the Provision of Short Breaks 

6.1 Short Breaks Provided by the Local Authority

(Statutory Guidance paragraph 4.2).

  • Where short breaks are provided by the Local Authority, the arrangements are covered by the prevailing Disclosure and Barring Service arrangements for undertaking criminal records checks;
  • Caring for or supervising children unsupervised, or providing Personal Care to them, will come within the definition of Regulated Activity, and the requirements of the Disclosure and Barring Service in relation to Regulated Activities will apply;
  • Overnight care provided in the family or a short break carer’s home as part of a short break plan under either Section 17(6) or Section 20(4) should be by an approved foster carer.

6.2 Short Breaks Provided by the Family

(Statutory Guidance para. 4.2)

  • Where the care is organised by the family and funded by direct payments or individual budgets, it is still likely to be regulated activity but there is no legal requirement for criminal records checks to be undertaken;
  • However, although there is no legal requirement, individual assessment of needs often indicates that criminal records and other background checks should, nevertheless, be undertaken;
  • Where care is organised by the family and is provided in the course of a family relationship or personal relationship for no reward, criminal records and other background checks are not required.

6.3 Care Provided in the Child’s Own Home or in the Community

(Statutory Guidance paragraph 4.10)

  • There are no requirements for agencies to register with OfSTED or the Care Quality Commission if they provide services to support disabled children in the community or in their own homes, unless they provide Personal Care. Such services are often called ‘befriending or sitting services’;
  • Care provided under any arrangement made by the Local Authority on a frequent, intensive or overnight basis constitutes a Regulated Activity the 2006 Act for which Disclosure and Barring Service checks must have BEEN completed, unless it is a family arrangement or a personal arrangement for no commercial consideration;
  • Where the Regulated Activity is provided by an organisation, the organisation must only use carers for whom satisfactory criminal records and background checks have be completed;
  • Where families arrange care themselves by employing carers in a private capacity, funded by direct payments, this will be Regulated Activity if it is frequent, intensive or overnight. Direct payments can not be used to employ someone without Disclosure and Barring Service checks or references, or someone subject to a drug or alcohol treatment requirement, youth rehabilitation order or released on licence.

6.4 Childminders

(Statutory Guidance para’s. 4.5, 4.6).

  • Childminders must be registered with OFSTED in the Early Years Register;
  • There is no requirement to register to provide childcare for a child aged eight or over, although voluntary registration with OfSTED on Part B of the General Childcare Register may be possible;
  • It is not appropriate for the Local Authority to provide overnight accommodation with childminders who are not also approved foster carers.


Appendices

Appendix 1: Providing Short Break Accommodation under Different Legal Provisions

Appendix 2: Deciding which Provision is Most Appropriate for the Child: Recording Template.

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