Respite care


Respite care has a crucial role to play in sustaining the placements of looked after children and giving necessary breaks to carers and their families, however the paramount needs of the looked after child must always be borne in mind. This chapter clarifies Children and Families' responsibilities and its expectations of carers, and that respite care payments should be fair.

Meeting the needs of looked after children

As we are committed to providing the best possible service to the Brighton and Hove children in our care and that our foster carers have the best possible support we can provide, when considering respite care the top priority must be meeting the needs of the looked after child.

It must be recognised that respite care can be potentially difficult for the looked after child. Even if it is for a short period, for the child, who will have endured already a move or moves, respite is another change s/he has to manage with your and their social worker’s support.

If respite has been agreed at the Placement Agreement Meeting or Placement Stability Meeting, it clearly has to be planned properly to try to lessen the impact on the child. Introductions to the prospective respite carers should be organised with good handover arrangements in place. The child has to be properly prepared by their carer and social worker.

If a child is to have regular respite as part of the Care Plan, there should be regular communication in between respite periods so that the respite carer is part of the child’s network. The timing of respite also needs to be considered carefully and what the child is coping with at that time – for example it should not be too close to any plan to begin introductions to potential adopters.

Decisions may have to be made that it could be in the best interests of siblings placed together to have respite apart from each other, but the needs of the individual child still have to be considered very carefully.

Clearly it is helpful if you can identify potential respite carers from within your family network. Necessary checks can then be made and if appropriate they can be provide care when respite is needed. Such arrangements make respite care less traumatic and help to ‘normalise’ the situation for the child.

Respite care support to carers

You can have access to respite care when the need arises if you and your supervising social worker and the child’s social worker consider a break from caring for a particular child/ren is required or a situation has arisen which means you cannot care for a child placed with you for a period.

When children with more challenging behaviour are placed with you, regular respite may need to be built in to help support the placement. You should not be penalised financially for this. We do recognise that the demanding nature of contemporary fostering requires carers have holidays and periodic breaks from caring in order to avoid ‘burn out’ and on occasions devote time to their own birth children.

Decisions about whether a child placed with you is considered challenging and that respite should be included in the support package can be made at the Placement Agreement Meeting or Placement Stability Meeting. Also an assessment can be made by your supervising social worker in consultation with the child’s social worker and by agreement with their manager. The Fostering Team Manager has to endorse this plan.

You should have an ongoing discussion with your supervising social worker about the appropriate timing of respite to meet the needs of the child placed and your family’s needs.

Expectations of carers

You are expected to care for children placed with you as if they were your own. You are expected and encouraged to take looked after children away with your family on holiday. Unintentionally, looked after children may feel very rejected if your family goes on holiday without them.

If this is not possible for a child placed with you to accompany you on holiday, you should try to identify people in your family network who could look after her/him. Clearly it is preferable for the child to stay with someone they already know, as it is less disruptive and feels more ‘normal’. In some situations, if appropriate and feasible, it would be better if such respite carers could move into your home so that the child’s routine continues. It is appreciated this may be difficult to achieve on many occasions.

If it is possible you should try to plan family holidays between placements if the looked after child cannot come on holiday with you.

Fair respite care payments

Payments for respite periods do need to be fair so that when respite is needed and planned you are not financially disadvantaged. However the Fostering Service does not want to set up a system for making respite payments that appears to encourage carers to go on holiday without the children in their care and still receive a full allowance, so discretion is needed.

You should not be financially penalised for a respite request if –

  • you are looking after teenagers or children with challenging behaviour
  • an unexpected crisis occurs in your family
  • part of the care planning for the child you are looking after includes s/he returning to their birth family or other relatives for contact

and you should continue to receive the full allowance including the fee payment. You would of course continue to budget as usual with this money and save for larger expenditure for the child in placement.

If you decide to have a holiday or a break, whilst a child is placed with you, and this has not been previously agreed, only the fee element of your allowance will be paid. Respite occurring, which has not been previously agreed, should be a rare occurrence.

If a looked after child goes for respite with a member of your family network s/he will receive the care payment part of the allowance not the expenses payment or fee. Before family members are approved as temporary respite carers basic checks have to be carried out and agreement given by the child’s social worker and a senior manager.

If you have any queries about respite care, please feel free to talk with your supervising social worker about this important issue.





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