A Review of the Short Break Service for Disabled Children

The reason for this post is to completely dismiss an anonymous letter which has been delivered to various media agencies claiming Cornwall Council is to cease the short break service for disabled children by closing all the current centres.

This letter is completely untrue and very damaging. Letters like this cause undue stress and anxiety to families and users of services, especially when they are completely untrue.

The letter is as follows:

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A review is currently happening, but this is in a very early stage, and this review has some very draft ideas on the future of the service. I will also say any proposal will be subject to a full consultation with families, users and staff before any decision is made on the service. It is also a statutory service, so we cannot just cut it completely.

Furthermore, The Parent Carer Council has been involved in the early stages of the review by being asked on just some of the ideas. And to be perfectly clear, there has never been the option of the stopping the service.

You may ask why there is a review? This is due to the budget pressures Cornwall Council is facing now, and for the next four years. Be under no illusion the reduction in funding will result in just about every service the council provides being reviewed. The council has made no secret of the position it finds itself in, and most people know the council has already had a difficult four years with £170m worth of cuts. Now it will have to find a further £196m for the next four years.

I have issued a statement in reference to the anon letter which will I hope will reassure people. It is as follows:

There are no proposals to close all residential short break centres in Cornwall.

The Council is committed to supporting children and young people with disabilities and their parents and carers. We recognise the importance of short breaks for children and young people and for their parents and carers and, unlike many other local authorities facing severe reductions in budgets, have continued to fund a wide range of short breaks.

Each year has seen the delivery of short breaks for disabled children growing, year on year, with many more families now being able to access a range of short breaks including residential short breaks, family based short breaks, direct payments, personal budgets, group activities, and individual packages of support.

Last year the Council delivered 842 short breaks to disabled children and young people in Cornwall. This represents a financial commitment of approximately £5 million in short breaks alone. In total the Council spends around £10 million per annum supporting children with special educational needs and disabled children and their families, one of the highest levels of spending in the country.

A review of the local authority directly provided residential short break services has recently been undertaken, which makes recommendations about how the Council can continue to be proactive in meeting an increased demand for short breaks at a time when there are further reductions in government grants to local authorities to provide services. The budget available to Children’s Services has been reduced by over £17 million in the last 4 years.

We recognise that any proposed change will be unsettling and have already started to talk to parents and carers about the challenge of continuing to offer such a high level of short breaks at a time of reducing Government funding.

We will continue to offer a range of quality short breaks, in partnership with both public and independent sector providers, in line with our statutory duty for those disabled children and their families who need this support. However, the way in which short breaks are provided will evolve, as we continue to balance local needs with the resources available to the Council. One of the most significant changes is the significant investment the Council has made in direct payments which is now available to 259 disabled children and families, giving them the flexibility and support they need to live a good family life.

Any proposed change to services will go through extensive, open and transparent consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. This is a commitment that has already been made to parents and carer groups. Before that can happen, proposals have to go through the Council’s formal governance processes for debate and scrutiny.

I hope this statement and blog post reassures people that the service is not ending, but may have some changes to how it is provide due to the pressures the council is facing. But any changes will be subject to discussions with users before a decision is made.

One comment

  • Jan Powell

    Hi Andrew,

    I really hope that funding is found to carry on providing this service. I like many families in Cornwall have received residential respite for my daughter. I agree wholeheartedly with the statements in the anonymous letter this person fully understands the challenges faced by carers and their families. I suspect this must be internal staff.
    Residential respite has enabled us to carry on in our caring role. My daughter is now 20 and has not slept one full night in that time. Regular respite with trained familiar staff, in a safe environment has enabled us to recharge our batteries and gear up to carry on providing support for our much loved daughter. it. has enabled my other children to have a brief period of normal life. For my daughter it was one of the only opportunities she has had to socialise and integrate with her peers.

    I note 5million is spent on respite. could I ask please if you could break that figure down into spend areas, ie comissioning, in house services, externally commissioned services, direct payments and other funded areas. Could you also advise individually how much is spent on in house services ie No1, Doubletrees and St.Christophers. I beleive these are the only major ones servicing the whole of Cornwall) How much of that is spent on front line delivery ie buildings and staff etc to provide the service and how much on administration.

    Jan Powell

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