Why can’t I see my friends when I have my short break?

Most disabled children and young people want to have friends or a friend, but the challenges they must overcome to see their friends can often seem unsurmountable. Children and young people’s short breaks may offer one of the few opportunities available to see their friends outside of school.

The Friendship for All project in York, funded by BBC Children in Need, worked directly with 60 disabled young people to assist them to have fun with their friends, and helping each to overcome barriers of distance, communication, confidence, and support.

Although many of the young people in the group were also receiving short breaks services from one or more providers few were enjoying their short breaks with chosen friends.

Yet consultations with families and disabled children revealed that most children would prefer and benefit from enjoying their short break with a friend.

Indeed, their short breaks service may the only way they can safely see their friend or friends. Scarce local authority funding continues to be invested in short breaks for disabled children that are seldom designed or intended to address disabled children’s need for friendship.

The good news is that short break providers in some local authorities now routinely offer disabled children the option of enjoying a short break a friend. They implemented simple changes which included putting friendship on the agenda for team meetings, collecting information about children’s friendships and connecting friends together who were already receiving the same short breaks services.

Making changes to short breaks services inclusive of friendship were often easy to implement and didn’t require additional funding.