Short Breaks

Fun, leisure and social activities for children and young people with additional needs and disabilities outside the school day.

What are Short Breaks?

Short Breaks are community holiday clubs and weekend activities. They are tailored to the support needs of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Short breaks can include:

  • holiday playschemes
  • youth clubs
  • drama groups
  • accessible sports activities
  • activities for the whole family to enjoy together.

Why use Short Breaks?

Short Breaks services enable a child to try new experiences, both with and away from their siblings and parents or carers. They provide the opportunity to learn new skills, develop their confidence and have fun! Parents and carers also get a break from their caring role. This break for parent carers is called respite.

Some of the benefits of Short Breaks for the child/young person are opportunities to:

  • enjoy different fun and learning experiences with support, appropriate to their age and ability
  • try new things, have fun and spend time with their peers
  • access community activities with support through outings and trips
  • enjoy activities together as a whole family.

Benefits of Short Breaks for you

  • They provide a break from caring responsibilities.
  • You can feel confident that your child is safe and having fun - with staff who are able to support them well.
  • Opportunities to build friendships/networks with other families who share similar experiences.
  • They allow you to spend time with other family members.
  • You can relax knowing that you and your family are in a safe and inclusive space.

Who can use Short Breaks?

Short Breaks are available for children and young people from 0-18 years old and live in West Sussex. They have a disability or additional need.

Families will get the middle or high care part of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for their disabled child. Or, the child will have an equivalent need.

If you are not sure if you meet the criteria you can get advice by emailing

Short Breaks costs

Activities are provided at a charge similar to what a child or young person would be charged for a comparable activity. All additional costs, such as 1:1 support or equipment to do the activity are funded through the Short Breaks programme.

Providers of Short Breaks in West Sussex

West Sussex County Council commissions a range of organisations to provide Short Breaks services across the county.

We check the suitability of all Short Breaks providers. They must have qualified, skilled, and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checked staff who commit to ongoing training.

All organisations must maintain appropriate registration and quality standards.

Short Breaks are divided into three categories, or 'lots'. Each lot targets specific people and activities. You can choose activities from any lot that suits you.

Lot 1 - Family activities

Families attend with their children and young people.

Lot 2 - Recreational activities for children and young people

Also known as ‘respite’, when the young person with SEND attends without their parent carers.

Lot 3 - Innovations and pilots

New activities: see individual suppliers to find out more.

How many Short Breaks can my child have?

There is no limit to the number of Short Breaks your child/young person can take part in. You can mix and match to meet the individual needs of your child/young person and your family.

Sign your child up for a Short Break

After choosing a provider for your child or young person, contact them directly. Enquire about their offerings and available spaces. This also lets you ask questions to decide on the best option.

Each provider has its own sign-up process. They ask about your child/young person's needs. This ensures they offer the right support.

In some instances, an activity or club may not be right for your child, in which case the provider should be able to signpost you to something more suitable. You may have to join a waiting list before your child is able to access services.

Many providers also have Facebook pages and other ways that you can receive support and information while you are waiting. You may wish to also look at other providers to see if they have a space.

Short Breaks statement and Facebook group

The Family Support and Short Breaks service statement sets out some services offered by West Sussex County Council. It tells you about what we can offer children and young people with additional needs and/or disabilities and how to access them.

You may also be interested in joining the Short Breaks Facebook group.

How families are involved in Short Breaks

We aim to respond to the local needs of children and young people. We do this by commissioning services for them in West Sussex.

  • The new Short Breaks programme began in April 2023 and was based on feedback from parent/carers. Changes to the programme include providing more family activities and school holiday breaks.
  • In Spring 2024, parent carers were asked to share their thoughts on the new programme and this feedback has fed into changes to Short Breaks.
  • We are in regular contact with our Short Breaks suppliers, who are strong advocates for the children/young people and their families.
  • Parent carer representatives sit on all award panels.
  • We continue to engage with potential new suppliers to encourage them to join our open framework so that they can bid for Short Breaks funding.

If you have any comments or views please email

Find a Short Breaks service near you

Go to map view on the pages below to see where each group of Short Breaks providers are based.