New research published today by the Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) campaign shows more than half of local authorities have cut spending on short breaks (respite services) for families with disabled children since 2011/12. The research also shows that families are reporting it is more difficult to access short breaks.
The consortium of charities are warning of the economic and social consequences if local authorities are forced to make further cuts to short breaks services and are calling on the Chancellor to renew the government’s commitment to investing in short break services in this autumn’s spending review as he did in 2010.
This will send a clear message to families that their huge contribution is valued and to local authorities that they must protect funding to disabled children services.
Short breaks provide a lifeline for families with disabled children, helping to hold families together and opening up the world to their disabled children, giving them independence. Short breaks are proven to lower rates of stress, depression and sleep deprivation, helping to prevent families from reaching breaking point. They allow parents time with their other children who can often miss out due to all the things their parents have to juggle such as medical appointments, assessments and work.
Families that receive a regular break from 24/7 caring are also emotionally healthier.
The new research also shows that despite pressures to cut some local authorities have protected short breaks services.
Amanda Batten EDCM Board Member and CEO at Contact a Family, says: “The value of investing in short breaks is beyond doubt. They save the State tens of millions of pounds by supporting parent carers to look after their disabled children, and they give disabled children and young people opportunities that their peers take for granted.
“Short breaks must remain a priority for local authorities, but they need the necessary funding to protect this essential service. The reasons to invest in short breaks remain as strong today as ever, and we urge the Government to ensure the sustainability of short breaks for the future.”
Helen Piper from Frome in Somerset has a 9 year old daughter and a 5 year old son, Alex who has a severe learning disability and uses a wheelchair. Helen says: “It’s hard to quantify just how important short breaks are to us. They are, to use an overused phrase, a lifeline. Our son Alex can’t talk or walk and is pre-verbal. He’s a beautiful, loving, funny little boy but he and his needs fill my head – sometimes to overflowing. He’s entirely dependent upon us for all his needs and it is relentless. We had respite provision up until October last year and when I heard we had lost it – due to the changing needs of our son – I cried. Respite is our safety valve. Without it my nerves shred. It allows us to breathe out and gives us time to relax, away from the constant worry of ‘Is he ok? Will he not be ok in a minute?’ It means we can take our daughter to places with steps or steep hills. We can listen to her without fear of interruption and my husband and I can go for dinner or maybe even have a night away. Life slows down. And we all sleep easy because Alex doesn’t always. And when he returns, I’m re-energised, I have been able to miss him – as any parent should.
“Short breaks give Alex time away from us too, to spend time with people who’ll be dedicating time to him and showing him new experiences or different ways to do things. This is something we all need. My son is not a burden but everyone needs a break. Our family and friends can’t help – even though they would – because of his complex needs. Short breaks hold our family together. They aren’t a luxury, they’re a necessity.”
Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) is a national campaign fighting for rights and justice for disabled children. It is a consortium campaign run by four national organisations working with disabled children and their families – Contact a Family, the Council for Disabled Children, Mencap and the Special Educational Consortium. Between them, the campaign partners represent over 800,000 disabled children and young people in the UK. www.edcm.org.uk/about-us