Direct Payments and respite care for children with special needs
Direct Payments are the new trendy way of getting services such as respite care out to people who need them while empowering you with choice. It's all very modern.
Basically, instead of provided services themselves, social services (the council) will put money into your bank account so that you can effectively buy in your own service (in this case, perhaps help in the home or respite care). The amount you receive will depend on the assessment your council (via social services) makes of your needs.
Social services should assess whether you are entitled to "short breaks". This is the term used for respite, rather than jetting off Bridget Jones-style with a handsome man (which, unfortunately, you are not entitled to, although you probably deserve it).
Respite basically means giving you a break from your caring responsibilities. You will be assessed for entitlement to respite, and you may then be given Direct Payments so that you can arrange the respite that best meets your needs.
"We now get 11 hours direct payment a week during term time and I have demanded 8 hours a day for the school holidays. That's in-house care." Riven
Direct Payments may pay for in-home care, or even hours with appropriate support at an after-school club.
"We eventually were given eight hours per month "sitting service" and it's brilliant and just what we needed. A sitter comes to our home and looks after my son and any siblings too. If I need to take my son to an appointment that states no siblings, then the sitter and comes along too and minds the siblings there for me." TallulahToo
Be warned that Direct Payments can be "erratic at best" and many claim that you will need to be at "family meltdown phase" before you are considered eligible: "You probably won't get anything until you are verging on a nervous breakdown".
Although those who get respite generally agree that "being very stroppy and vocal" can help. If you find yourself hitting a brick wall, contact some of the carers' associations (such as Carers UK) and find out more about your rights as a carer.
"I can use the helper to our mutual satisfaction once she comes - sometimes she even washes up while I eat my dinner while it's hot! You need to tell social services when and how you need the help, and they can tell you what they can offer. Some people get a laundry service, others a sitter, others a carer to take a child swimming, etc." meltedmarsbars
Some councils have a Family Link scheme whereby families develop a relationship with a family with a child with special needs, and offer short-term respite for an hour or two or even overnight. It is effectively a form of fostering in very short bursts, and may be offered by your local social services.
"We use Family Link. Basically, families (with no children with special needs) sign up to befriend a SN child and their family. It's a long-term relationship that should (in theory) mean you get to the point where you are happy to leave your child with them for one afternoon per fortnight, or to go swimming Saturday mornings or some such. It's often the first thing offered because it costs the council nothing but the admin. The down side is that there are obvious limits to what these families can cope with and it's usually quite small amounts of time." r3dh3d
You may be offered overnight respite, or respite that includes an overnight stay. This may be at a respite centre (including overnight respite units), or it may be with a foster family.
"We have a 24-hour respite every 4 weeks when our daughter goes to a family's house and they look after her. They work in our borough as foster carers, and love her. We are so happy that she goes to them as she absolutely loves them and loves being there." PheasantPlucker
Some Mumsnetters have been offered overnight respite but choose a different type of respite, which is better for their families.
"My child is six. We chose not to have overnight respite (which was offered by social services) but instead have a few hours of a Saturday afternoon. We still have the other two with us, but it means we can shop or whatever without the tantrums / stealing." peachyClair