Short breaks services must adapt to support children with complex needs


Short break services provided to families of children with learning disabilities and severely challenging behaviour are offered as a key element of support. Critical to the success however is the way in which the service can be provided to fit the individual needs of the young person with complex needs.

The authors of this study set out to describe one model of service in three locations which provides overnight short breaks as well as community-based support to such families. The service was evaluated through a series of individual and group interviews with 30 stakeholders to gather data on approach and satisfaction.

The authors point out that a key feature of the model is that the short break services are embedded within multi-agency partnerships. The evaluation highlighted four features:

  • values and ethos underpinning the service
  • service procedures
  • organization of short breaks
  • role of an intensive support/outreach service

Each of these features is examined in more detail in relation to their impact on the success of the service.

Critical features of short break and community support services to families and disabled young people whose behaviour is severely challenging, McConkey R et al., in Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 15 4,  252-268


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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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