Breaks from looking after their children are an important element of support for the parents of disabled children, including autistic children.
The Good Practice Guidance on autistic spectrum disorders which the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health published in 2002, included pointers to good practice on family support and encouraged schools and local authorities to ensure that there were suitable arrangements to support children and families out-of-school hours and during the school holidays.
The Government have made a commitment that all schools will be providing access to extended services and activities by 2010, and we have set out a core offer of activities that we want all children to be able to access through schools by that time. The Government have published guidance which makes clear that children with disabilities and special educational needs must be able to access all the services. We have also been working with the Council for Disabled Children to review access to and inclusion in extended schools, and in children’s centres, for disabled children and their families.
A report of this work will be published shortly, to help schools and children’s centres identify effective practice in including disabled children and young people in the services and activities they provide, including services provided in the school holidays.
The Government recently announced the start of a three-year transformation in short break services for disabled children. 21 local areas will launch the first wave of £370 million investment for local authorities that will extend to all of England from 2009. This will provide many more disabled children, including those with autism, with enjoyable and valuable experiences away from their parents and carers, in turn providing them with the opportunity to take a break from caring.