Headlines: January 15th, 2008

Many families who care for children or adults with severe, profound and multiple learning disabilities get no short breaks at the moment, but all that is set to change. A strategy launched by the Department for Children, Schools and Families aims to provide breaks from just a few hours to a weekend or week, with disabled children and young people being cared for in their own home or given opportunities to access activities and places in the wider community.

A review of disabled children’s needs found that short breaks are seen as the highest priority service for families with disabled children. To meet this need, councils will receive some 430 million pounds to invest in children’s services during 2008-11 and additional funds will go to Primary Care Trusts. In the first year the majority of funding will go to the 21 pathfinder areas with all other local authorities receiving an average of 50,000 pounds to help them prepare to transform their short break services from 2009.

In addition to this funding, PCTs will be funded to improve services for disabled children with complex health needs and those with life limiting conditions which require palliative care. The NHS has identified short break services as a local priority from 2008.

Dame Jo Williams, chief executive of Mencap, said: “The main priority now is that the pathfinder authorities set up good short break services as a matter of urgency in order to enable families to go on caring. Mencap’s Breaking Point report found that 8 out of 10 families who are caring for somebody with a learning disability said that they had reached Breaking Point and felt they could not cope anymore.