Review confirms short breaks have potential to positively impact on well-being of carers, children and their families


The authors of this review of the literature set out to look at the assumptions held about the impact of short breaks on family carers and disabled children.

60 articles or reports were identified for inclusion in the review, the vast majority being cross-sectional studies. The reviewers found eight studies using quasi-experimental pre-post designs or longitudinal designs.

They found consistent reporting within these articles of findings suggesting that short breaks have the potential to positively impact on the well-being of carers, the children receiving short breaks and their families as a whole.

They recommend further research in a number of areas:

  • to consider the impact of short breaks on fathers.
  • to consider in more depth how short breaks impact the siblings of disabled children
  • to consider how best short breaks can be combined with other interventions to maximise the impact for disabled children and their families
  • to consider longer term impact of short breaks on outcomes for disabled children and their families.

The authors suggest what is missing from the evidence base at the moment is evidence on the best type of short breaks for children and families with particular characteristics at particular times

The Impacts of short break provision on families with a disabled child: an international literature review, Robertson, J., et al, in Health & Social Care in the Community, 19, 337–371

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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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