To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment has he made of the potential merits of respite care for families with vulnerable children on the educational development of those children.
Short breaks for carers of disabled children (or ‘respite care’) are funded opportunities, ranging from a few hours to a few days, that allow for disabled children to be cared for away from the family home. Short breaks provide a wide variety of experiences which support children and young people in developing social interaction and communication skills and also promote physical and mental health and develop independence.
Since 2011, local authorities have been under a duty to provide a range of short breaks which must be provided regularly and reliably to meet families’ needs. It is up to local authorities to determine how to deliver these services and it is right that they have the freedom to make decisions based on the needs of their local area.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, local authorities will work with their local providers of short breaks to offer as much flexibility as possible whilst adhering to the government’s guidance to keep children and staff safe. The government has provided £3.2 billion of additional to support local authorities to address pressures they are facing during the COVID-19 outbreak, including in children’s social care and for special educational needs and disabilities services. The government has also announced £750 million of funding to support frontline charities during the outbreak, including those supporting vulnerable children.
On 19 May 2020, we announced £37 million for the Family Fund in 2020-21, who will provide grants to families on low incomes with disabled and critically ill children. £10 million of that funding has been committed specifically due to the unique difficulties presented by the COVID-19 outbreak, helping parents to educate and look after children who are staying at home more than usual. Details of the announcement are at this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/37-million-to-support-children-with-complex-needs.