Targeted Short Breaks Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Targeted Short Breaks service?

Targeted Short Breaks is a service for parents and families of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). The service intends to offer parents, families, and young people a ‘short break’ from each other, with fun activities arranged for the children and young people, while parents and families can have a ‘short break’ from their care duties.

Activities offered as part of Targeted Short Breaks can include visits and trips, sports sessions, crafts, baking, games, educational activities, and many more!

Why do we offer Targeted Short Breaks?

Offering Targeted Short Breaks is not a statutory requirement. Although the Short breaks for carers of disabled children Departmental advice for local authorities 2011, suggests that a local authority may include access to short breaks that do not need an assessment, these would form part of the local offer.

Who is eligible for Targeted Short Breaks?

To be eligible for our fun, educational Targeted Short Break Activities, your child or young person must: 

  • Be a resident in Cumbria (Cumberland Council or Westmorland and Furness Council areas)
  • Have a disability (as defined by the Equalities Act 2010)
  • Have a current Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)
  • Be in academic year groups 1 to 13 (or equivalent). 

Targeted Short Breaks Activities (TSBA) are intended to support children and young people with low to moderate level needs. Although all eligible children and young people will be offered access to TSBA, most of our current providers are only able to support children and young people with low to moderate level needs. 

They are unable to support children or young people that have a higher-level need where one to one care, administering medicine or personal care requirements such as toileting are required, unless this is specified as part of the package certain providers offer.

How does it work?

The Targeted Short Breaks year runs from 1 February every year to 31 January the following year (example 1 February 2023 to 31 January 2024). Within this period, families are entitled to 76 free hours of Targeted Short Breaks sessions, which roughly equates to 1 hour and 25 minutes per week. This may mean a child attends an hourly session every week with a few additional hours, or families may choose to have their child or young person to attend longer sessions during school holidays. These hours are set and cannot be added to.

How do I book activities?

Families can book sessions for their child or young person via a booking link that will be provided following registration. Activities will be listed on the platform for parents to choose from, including the time allocated for the session and how many of their hours it will take.

How and when can I register for the Targeted Short Breaks Service?

If families believe their child or young person is eligible for the service, they can register for the service during our registration windows.

These windows are usually in October for the following year (example, registration would take place in October 2022 for the Targeted Short Breaks year 1 February 2023 to 31 January 2024.)

If families miss this window, another window will usually be available in the April/May period for the latter half of the Targeted Short Breaks year – this means families will be entitled to 38 hours instead of the 76, for the second half of the year up until 31 January.

Who provides the Targeted Short Breaks sessions?

Targeted Short Breaks services must be provided by the Local Authority.

In Cumbria, Cumberland Council and Westmorland and Furness Council award providers the Targeted Short Breaks contracts for their areas (Carlisle, Copeland and Allerdale areas for Cumberland Council, and Eden, South Lakeland and Barrow areas for Westmorland and Furness Council). This is decided by a competitive process, in which providers will outline what they have to offer. This will be scored by a panel based on a variety of factors, including how well the provider can meet the needs of the local area and community, and the contract is awarded to whichever provider scores the highest.


Our current providers:

  • Carlisle area (Cumberland Council) – Sportworks
  • Carlisle Mencap as additional provider

Sportworks Website

Sportworks Facebook page

Carlisle Mencap Website

Carlilse Mencap Facebook page


  •  Eden area – 4Eden

4Eden Website

4Eden Facebook page


  •  Barrow area – Endorphins

Endorphins Website

Endorphins Facebook page


  •  South Lakeland area – Oaklea

Oaklea Website

Oaklea Facebook page


What if my child or young person doesn't meet the eligibility criteria?

If your child or young person does not meet the eligibility criteria for Targeted Short Breaks, there may be other provision they can access, such as Universal Activities or Health and Food Programme Activities.

Our SEND Local Offer contains a directory of leisure activities and things to do for families with children or young people with SEND. You can view these directories below:

What if my child has a higher level of need?

If your child has a higher level of need than Targeted Short Breaks can cater to, they may be eligible for other kinds of provision, such as Specialist or Overnight Short Breaks. To access these services, you will need to request a Child and Family Assessment, which will be undertaken by a social worker.

To find out more about Specialist and Overnight Short Breaks, visit the SEND Local Offer's page about these breaks:

Westmorland and Furness Council Specialist and Overnight Short Breaks Information

How do I tell the providers of the activities about my child or young person and their individual needs before they go to an activity?

There are several ways providers will use to find out information about your child or young person before the activity:

• When you are booking an activity there is a section called ‘About your child’, which you can fill in by clicking on the tab along the bottom of the form. This information is shared with the provider.

• Once you have booked an activity, the provider of that session or sessions will be in touch with you. They may ask you to complete their own child information form. Please fill this in and return it to the provider. It is a very important document and will enable the provider to put things in place to help meet your child or young person’s needs

• You can get in touch with the provider directly to speak to them about your child or young person if you want to. Once they have received your completed child information form they may be in touch with you if they have further questions or would like to talk to you before the session.

What happens if my child or young person can no longer make a session, or a session is cancelled?

After you have booked on to an activity or series of activities you may find that you need to cancel them.

  • If you cancel 24 hours or more before the start of a series of activities or individual activity, you will automatically get those hours back. 
  • If you cancel with less than 24 hours’ notice you will not automatically get those hours back.
  • If you cancel part way through a serious of activities, you will not automatically get those hours back.
  • If you miss one activity in a series, you will not get those hours back.

If cancellation has occurred as an exceptional circumstance, please call a Child and Family worker to discuss this further.

If someone else cancels: 

  • If the provider cancels, then you will get those hours back. 
  • If the local authority cancels you will get your hours back.
Do you provide transport to Targeted Short Breaks services?

It is the responsibility of parents and carers to arrange transport to Targeted Short Breaks activities.

What is the difference between the Holiday Activities Fund (HAF) and Short Breaks?

The Cumbria Holiday Activities Programme is funded by the Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food Programme. It is primarily aimed at supporting children in receipt of benefits-related free school meals. Up to 15% of the funding can be used to support children with other vulnerabilities. Using this money, the council has been able to commission a large number of local youth service providers to offer sessions to eligible children and young people during main school holiday periods (summer, Christmas, Easter). This activity is unrelated to short breaks or SEND services more widely.

How do parents, carers, children and young people get involved in feedback and shaping the future of the service?

There are various ways that parents, carers, children and young peoples can get involved in shaping the future of the short breaks service:

 Children and young people can:

• Provide feedback whilst at activity sessions (this can be supported by staff at the sessions if appropriate)

• Speak to or communicate with staff at the activities

• Provide feedback using the SEND Local Offer website

• Talk to their social worker or area’s child and family worker

Parents and carers can:

• Attend or become a member of their area’s Parent Advisory Group for short breaks (known as PAGs). Please contact alice.clague2@westmorlandandfurness.gov.uk for more information on the PAGs

• Speak to SENDAC (the parent carer forum) to pass on comments, concerns and feedback. You can contact SENDAC at hello@sendac.org

• Speak to staff at the activities

• Complete the surveys which will be sent from the service to registered users regularly

• Provide feedback using the SEND Local Offer website

• Talk to your social worker or area’s child and family worker

What if I have more questions?

For more information, you can get in touch with your Child and Family Worker.

Call 0300 308 165 or contact: 

shortbreaks.WAF@cumbria.gov.uk

Page last reviewed: 23/08/2023

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