Last updated: 18 January 2024

Short breaks provide a chance for children with disabilities to spend time away from their carers, try out new things, have fun and make new friends. Short breaks can also provide families with a chance to have a break from their caring responsibilities and to do ordinary things together.

Read our Short Breaks statement

A short break can be a few hours, evenings, overnight, weekend, and school holiday daytime activities. It can take place in your own home, at a carer’s home or in a number of other settings, for example:

  • Overnight residential short breaks at the Local Authority’s respite centre at Lester House, 99 Leyton Green Road (this means your child stays away from home for a short while and you get a night-time break). Overnight short breaks are mainly for children and families with high support needs and can only be considered by the short breaks panel once a child and family assessment has been completed.
  • Holiday play schemes
  • After school clubs and sessions
  • Adventure play
  • Buddying and befriending
  • Disability specific services (for the visually, hearing and mobility impaired)
  • Support to access inclusive mainstream services: Most services are happy to accept disabled children and young people, but to get the most out of their time there some children/young people may need additional support. This could be because they need help with using the toilet, or with their behaviour. Some children just need someone to go along with them for the first few times to help the service to understand how to include them successfully.
  • Activities for all children such as Girl Guides and Scouts, or summer fun days are run by the local council.

What is not considered a short break

  • Childcare
  • Holidays – in the UK or overseas
  • Support for siblings
  • Educational support
  • Extra tuition
  • Support because the parent ill health
  • Carers assessment/ adult services
  • Driving lessons
  • Cleaning service
  • Domiciliary care

Eligibility for a short break

You may be eligible if your child:

  • has a diagnosed disability or impairment that would define them as a disabled person under the Equality Act 2010 including physical or sensory impairment, learning disability, Autism Spectrum Disorder, challenging behaviour as a result of a disability, complex health needs, and those with palliative, life-limiting, or life-threatening conditions.
  • is a resident of Waltham Forest
  • is aged 0 to 18 years

How to get a short break

You can access a short break in the following ways:

Route 1: Through the Local Offer and mainstream services available for children and families in Waltham forest (no assessment or allocation of Short Breaks is required)

Route 2:  If you are currently being supported by a Social Worker, Early Help Practitioner, or SEND Officer you can ask them to make a professional’s referral as they will be completing an assessment with your family.

Route 3: You can complete a self-referral. Information and guidance and a guide to completing the form is available below.

Alternatively, to request a self-referral form please telephone 0208 496 3515 or email

To request a formal assessment with the Waltham Forest SEND Service, please telephone 0208 496 6503 or email

Self referral form

The form can be requested by contacting the Short Break Coordinator at Waltham Forest at, our front door at or by requesting it from a professional working with your child.

You will need to sign the form. If you do not have an electronic signature, you can print off the signature page, sign it and scan it back to

Help with completing the form

If you need help completing the form, there are several things you can do.

  • Use the short breaks guide which shows you, step by step, how to fill in the short breaks self referral form.
  • Talk to SENDIASS to ask if they could help (contact details below)
  • Talk to a professional working with your child to see if they can help. We will be asking that they come and present your case to the short breaks panel.
  • If your school has a Family Support team they may be able to help

Please ensure that the form is signed by a parent or guardian and that you send evidence that your child or young person has a disability. This could be a copy of your child’s DLA or PIP letter (which tells you what level of Disability Living Allowance/ Personal Independence Payment has been given to your child/young person) or a letter from the Consultant detailing your child/young person’s diagnosis. If you need further advice and help with this, you can also contact the Short Break Coordinator.

Where to send the completed referral form

All completed referrals including supporting documents, should be sent to: or the address in our contact section.

What happens next

We will put your application through a triage process to ascertain if it is appropriate for short breaks service and inform the panel administrator to prepare it for the panel. The panel will then consider your request and make a decision.

What is the short breaks panel

The panel is made up of managers from SEND Service (Co-Chairs), Short Breaks Officer, Early Help Coordinator, Business Support Officer, Social Worker, Health (DCO or Commissioner), Joint Commissioning Team, Finance Team, and a representative from the Parent Forum. The panel will ensure that the allocation of Short Break hours and support is based on assessed needs and will meet the needs of the child or young person. The panel meets monthly to assess new referrals and also to regularly review what individual families receive.

No short breaks hours will be allocated until the request has been presented to the short breaks panel unless the Social Work or Early Help Assessment results as a recommendation that the needs of the child can be met through universal services.

We might make an out of panel decision in cases requiring complex and immediate support due to significant changes in medical condition or sudden breakdown of support in place but those are assessed on a case by case basis. Should we need to make an emergency out of panel decision, it will be ratified at the next available short breaks panel.

When the panel has agreed on the number of short break hours and any other support that is needed, the family can mix and match services from the directory which suits them best.

How needs are assessed

The panel gathers professionals from various teams who have been involved with providing care and services to your child. We check and seek feedback from lead professionals to help and better inform panel decisions. In some instances, the panel might feel that they do not have enough information to make a decision and will request that a professional brings it back to the next panel once the required information has been obtained. We might obtain more information by contacting you and asking some more questions and /or by speaking to other professionals from SEND Service, Early Help, Social Services, Early Years, CAMHS, and Family support from your child’s schools.

What happens after the panel's decision

We will write to you in 10 working days to confirm the outcome of the panel decision. If you have been allocated a short break you can mix and match services from the directory which suits you best. We will also attach a list of our current providers and a sheet to help you record how you use your hours.

Types of short breaks we can offer

Waltham Forest provides commissioned services that families can access using their short breaks hours. ‘Commissioned’ means they have been bought in by the local authority under a contract with the provider.

Adventure playgrounds

A range of activities are available at two specialist playgrounds with activities designed to meet the needs of children and young people with additional needs. They offer an inclusive and individualised service to each child. They can offer both holiday schemes and weekend activities.

Outreach service

The outreach service is designed to meet the needs of disabled children/ young people and their families through planned 1:1 sessions, where the provider facilitates leisure and play activities to help the child/young person expand their interests and explore new social opportunities and build up positive experiences and skills.

Families are allocated a trained designated short breaks worker who organises regular sessions in partnership with the family. The sessions can be home and community based depending on the needs of the child/young person and their family. Workers can also come along to family outings to provide support.

Holiday schemes, weekend schemes and after school clubs

These are usually group activities that can be run from a base or using community resources. The child/young person needs will be assessed by the provider and allocated either a 1:1 or a 1:4 support worker depending on their needs. Each short break provider has different criteria for the allocation of support. Some may charge a small fee to attend, and some may be able to offer transport to get your child/young person to and from the activity. Should you have any questions, please contact the individual organisations.

Overnight short breaks

Overnight short breaks are provided at the council's Short Break unit at Leyton Green Respite Centre, Lester House, and are available for children aged 8-18 who have the most complex needs. To access this service, your child/ young person will require an assessment by a social worker. Depending on your need, you may receive 12, 24 or 52 overnights per year.

Sleep service

In Waltham Forest, we have commissioned sleep practitioners, 2Sleep, who can provide practical help to support families and professionals working with families who have a child with a sleep issue.

For those families who need it, they can offer 1:1 support, working with them to develop a plan to tackle sleep issues they may have and supporting them to implement the plan. Support can be requested as part of a short break request using the self-referral form or can be requested by any professional working with the family.

Haven House

Haven House is a highly specialist respite provider for children with complex medical needs who need nursing support. if your child is known to the continuing care nursing team you may be eligible for respite overnight stays at Haven House which would be part of your continuing care nursing package.

To find out more, contact your nursing team at: who can discuss your request with the health commissioning team as part of your support package.

Residential services

Waltham Forest residential short breaks (after school, evening, overnights and holiday schemes) are provided by our flagship Centre for disabled children at Leyton Green Road Respite Centre which is based at Lester House 99 Leyton Green Road, Leyton, E10 6BD.

To access this service your child will require an assessment by a social worker.

How you can use your short break allocation

We are trying to give families more flexibility within the choice of short breaks available and recognise that you will be best placed to make the decisions about this.

If a child or young person has been given a short break package, they can use the short break hours with any of the services that Waltham Forest has a contract with to provide services, (we refer to these as commissioned services). The short break package you may receive is usually via a commissioned service with Short Break hours or Direct Payments. You will receive an allocation of ‘hours’ as a package which you can use from April 1st- 31st March. If you apply part way through the year, you will receive a pro rata amount for the remaining art of the year. Your yearly allocation will then start again from 1st April the following year.

You can use these at weekends, weekdays or during the school holidays, as long as there is availability. You can mix and match services from the Short Break providers which best suits your needs and wishes.

For example, if a child or young person is allocated 100 hours of Short Breaks the hours can be used in the following manner: 25 hours at ELHAP, 15 hours at Oak Foundation, 20 hours at Resources for Autism, 40 hours at KIDS etc. or the child/young person can use all 100 hours with the one organisation if they so wish. In some cases, there may also be a daily/weekly charge to attend an activity. Check with the provider for details.

Short Breaks are allocated for one year at a time and run from April to March of the following year. This is in line with our financial year.

If child/ young person uses up all of their hours before the end of the financial year, they will not be able to access the services until April of the following year unless this is agreed by the Short Break Panel or there is an urgent, unavoidable change in a family’s situation. Therefore, it is very important to carefully plan how you use your hours.

It is the responsibility of the parents to keep track of the hours that their child uses each year.

A printed version is available and can be requested by contacting SEND Service front door on 0208 496 6503 or by emailing:

Important notice:

  • Unused short break hours cannot be carried over into the new financial year
  • If short break allocation is not used within 12 months from allocation, we might decide to reduce or entirely cancel the allocation.

Universal services

Everyone can access universal short breaks, which are mainstream services that cater for disabled, non-disabled children and young people. Parents and carers can get a short breaks from their caring responsibilities by using these activities.

Download the parent forum activities booklet.

Direct payments

Short break hours can be converted into direct payments.

Direct payments and how to them

Direct payment is an alternative to an allocation of hours. The aim of direct payment is to give more flexibility in how services are provided to people or families who are assessed as needing social services support. Direct payment is a sum of money that is paid to the family of a child or young person with a disability so the parents can buy short breaks and is an alternative to using the service providers that the local authority has a contract with to provide services (commissioned services). Therefore, you either receive a direct payment or a short break allocation but not both. Direct payments will be issued from the date of request and cannot be backdated.

Before receiving the direct payments, parents or carers will be taken through the process by Waltham Forest direct payments team. Further information about direct payments and how to use them is available on Waltham Forest's direct payments and personal budgets page.

Changing short break hours to direct payments or the other way around

Should the current type of short break allocation no longer work for you or your child, please send your request in writing to and provide as much detail as possible, so it can be considered in the decision making process. Please be advised that we might also speak to any professional involved in your child’s support to ensure, what we provide, meets your child and family's needs.

Providers of our commissioned services

Get in touch


Short breaks officer

London Borough of Waltham Forest
Wood Street Health Centre
6 Linford Road
E17 3LA