Children and young people’s short breaks may offer one of the few opportunities available to see their friends outside of school

Young people gathering together while on a short break

Browse friendship and short breaks resources

Most disabled children and young people want to have friends, but the challenges they must overcome to see their friends can often seem unsurmountable. Children and young people’s short breaks may offer one of the few opportunities available to see their friends outside of school.

Indeed, a short breaks service may be the only way they can safely see their friends. Scarce local authority funding continues to be invested in short breaks for disabled children that are seldom designed or intended to address disabled children’s need for friendship.

The good news is that short break providers in some local authorities now routinely offer disabled children the option of enjoying a short break with a friend. They implemented simple changes which included putting friendship on the agenda for team meetings, collecting information about children’s friendships and connecting friends together who were already receiving the same short breaks services.

Making changes to short breaks services inclusive of friendship were often easy to implement and didn’t require additional funding.

How to make short breaks services inclusive of children’s friendships

Our how-to guide offers a step by step approach to assist short breaks’ services working with disabled children and young people and wish to respond to their requests to have their short break with a friend.

The outcomes of children’s Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plans are increasingly focussed on the importance of activities that support friendship. Short breaks services will inevitably need to be responsive to children’s EHC plan outcomes and expectations, by being in a state of readiness to provide a flexible range of options which include the choice of friendship for those who want it.

Friendship training for short break carers

In order to provide a short break service that supports young people to spend time with their chosen friends it is crucial that carers are motivated and feel supported to facilitate these friendships. Short breaks carers will benefit from a training programme which reflects this changing role.

Direct payments, personal budgets and friendship

Disabled children, young people and their families are increasingly choosing to have their short breaks funded by a direct payment or personal budget, enabling families to employ their own personal care assistant. This option can offer greater flexibility and control including the chance for young people to see their friends and ensure the importance of friendship is not overlooked.

The job of personal care assistant is usually only partly about the practical aspects of supporting children and young people. It’s also about inclusion, independence, values and choice, building relationships and supporting children and young people to have a friend or friends when that is what they want.

Circles are a great way for disabled children and young people to achieve their friendship aspirations. Sometimes young people will need the direct help and encouragement of their personal care assistant if they are to find new and creative ideas to make new friends, for example by getting to know those who share similar interests.

Making new friends

Dan employs a personal care assistant to help him grow vegetables in his allotment. Dan also wanted to get to know and make friends with nearby allotment holders. With the support of his personal care assistant, Dan invited his allotment ‘neighbours’ to come and meet him and one another at a barbecue on his allotment. Now when Dan goes to his allotment, he’s likely to meet a friend to chat with, share produce and ideas.

How are EHC plans helping children to enjoy friendship?

The Children and Families Act 2014 included important changes to the law for young people and children with special educational needs. Local councils must outline and publish their ‘local offer’ of service provision for children and families. Statements of educational need are being replaced with a new birth to 25 years education health and care plan

EHC plans are flexible, personalised and outcomes focussed, offering children and young people and their families the chance to highlight the importance of friendship in their reviews.

‘EHC Plans provide a holistic approach we look at the whole child and their ability to be part of their education plan and part of life, it’s a continuum, preparing children for life their own community, to be independent, this includes friendship.’ – Lisa Abel Send Manager, City of York Council


Training Scenario- Chloe's story

Training Scenario- Evie's story

Training Scenario- James's story

Deaf disabled children talking about child protection

Friendship action plan to record the friendship journey of children in care

Friendship Research Briefing

A guide to safeguarding, managing risk and personal budgets

A guide to friendship inclusive social media

How-to guide for short breaks

Letter of agreement from short breaks how-to guide

Perfect day reflective training activity or short break carer

Rachel's story

Statement exercises to promote group discussion with foster carers

Sample letter from short breaks how-to guide

Short break sample profile form

Short breaks sample questionnaire

The perfect day activity completion sheet

Training for short breaks

Unprotected, overprotected report