A break from caring for a disabled child: parent perceptions of the uses and benefits of short break provision in England

Michelle Collins, Susanne Langer, Victoria Welch, Emma Wells, Chris Hatton, Janet Robertson, Eric Emerson

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‘Short breaks’ is a term used in England to refer to a range of services for disabled children, many of which used to be known as respite. Recent legislation in England requires local authorities to provide family carers of disabled children with breaks so that they can continue to care. This qualitative study explored the perceptions of twenty-five parents whose children accessed short breaks. We performed a thematic analysis of data obtained from interviews and a narrative tool. The analysis revealed that short breaks were crucial in helping parents with disabled children continue to provide care and they were used in other ways that addressed the wider consequences of caring. These other uses included reducing social isolation and caring for non-disabled siblings and were facilitated by novel forms of short break provision. Some parents reported that their needs for short breaks had not been met and this appeared to arise from contested interpretations of what ‘breaks from caring’ means. Our findings suggest social work assessments should not just identify that parents need a break from caring, but should also include an understanding of how parents make sense of their need for a break.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1180-1196
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number5
Early online date21 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • disability
  • children and families
  • qualitative methods
  • respite care
  • break from caring
  • contested interpretations
  • parent perceptions

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