Lancashire County Council is giving parents and carers the opportunity to have their say on proposed changes to its short break offer for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
A six-week consultation began on Wednesday 2 September and parents and carers have until 5pm on Wednesday 14 October to share their views.
The short break offer consists of activities and services that can be accessed by children with SEND and their families if children meet the eligibility criteria.
Some activities and services can be accessed without a social care assessment of need. These include SEND activities, groups and events specifically for children and young people, which are part of the Early Help Offer and Lancashire Break Time.
The Short Break Offer also includes day and night time support and services which can only be accessed through social care assessment of need.
There has been a review of these services, where council officers worked alongside parents and carers, children and young people, short break service providers and other partners to consider how the service should look in the future.
A more joined-up offer is proposed, made up of three elements – Break Time, Day Time and Night Time.
County Councillor Phillippa Williamson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “This is another important opportunity for parents and carers to have their say about vital short break services we provide for children with special educational needs and disabilities.
“The proposed changes are based on work we’ve done with young people who use the services, their families, and the care providers.
“We’ve taken their views into account following the previous Lancashire Break Time consultation, which we ran last year.
“People’s responses showed us that the service is valued, but that it could be improved.”
The proposed new Break Time service would provide an opportunity for a short break for parents, carers, families and children and young people. Children and young people would take part in group activities.
Changes compared to the current Lancashire Break Time Service include:
• The Break Time offer would be a minimum of 10 hours and a maximum of 50 hours of activities a year.
• Families will be able to purchase additional hours of Break Time activities if they want to access more than the maximum offer.
• There will be an increase to the parent carer contribution towards Break Time activities and groups from £1 to £2 an hour.
Children and young people aged 0 to 18 years would still be able to access Day-time and Night-time short breaks, if this is identified as a need following a social care assessment
The new proposals would ensure Break Time can be accessed in a much fairer way so everyone can make use of the hours they are entitled to.
County Councillor Williamson added: “The increase in parent and carer contribution will support the council to provide the Break Time service in a sustainable way.
“We’ve also looked at Day Time and Night Time short break services and how they can work in conjunction with Break Time to offer increased flexibility and choice in the support families can access.
“The improvements being put forward would help to make better use of all the short break and care options for children with special educational needs and disabilities so that everyone has better and fairer access to these vital services.
“These are only proposals at this stage and we are running the consultation so that people have the opportunity to share their views before any decision is made.”
In addition, the county council is also considering a new way of procuring short break services. This will help to widen the range and quality of the support available across the county.
Anyone wanting to take part in the consultation online can visit: www3.lancashire.gov.uk/corporate/consultation/responses/response.asp?ID=391
Alternatively, people can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01772 531 597 for a printed version of the questionnaire.