Respite care for children with disabilities

Respite care is a form of short-term substitute care for children with significant disabilities or a serious health condition, and is provided by someone other than parents or the usual carers of the child.

It may form part of a support package based on the particular needs of individual children and their families.

It may take the form of day care or overnight care at regular intervals, in the home, with another family or at a residential unit, or possibly accessing a community facility such as a play scheme.

It should be both a positive experience for the child to have opportunities away from their family, while giving the family some break from constant caring.

Types of respite care

Day care

Day care is provided by:

  • specialist childminders with knowledge of additional needs
  • community play schemes, with additional support if appropriate
  • shared care (family based care) which may involve day care initially which gradually builds up to overnights stays

Overnight care

Overnight care is usually provided by linking a child with shared carers after a careful matching process. Shared carers are assessed and registered by us and have ongoing training and oversight.

Overnight care is provided by:

  • Mayfield Respite Care Home for children with a learning disability (provided by Bournemouth Social Services)
  • Smithers short-stay residential home (provided by Dorset Scope)
  • Victoria Education Centre (provided by the Shaftesbury Society)

All of these facilities have their own criteria for admission and generally cater for children with complex needs where shared care provision would not be appropriate.

Children receiving regular overnight care are considered to be 'children who are looked after' during these periods of care and will have their care plans formally reviewed by Independent Reviewing Officers every 6 months.

Children with exceptional health or nursing needs may receive respite at Castle Hill House in Poole, as part of the Dorset Health Care Trust Hospital.

Parents may identify their own carers to provide support to meet their child’s needs more flexibly and could be funded to do so via Direct Payments.

Access to services

The provision of respite care is dependant on the child meeting the criteria for a service from the Poole Child Health and Disability (CHAD) team and an assessment under the Children in Need Assessment Framework being carried out via our referral process.

Dependant on both the assessed need and the child and parent’s own wishes, various short break opportunities may be offered ranging from a few hours care to regular overnight provision.

If you would like someone to contact you regarding our support services for children with disabilities then please call us on 01202 123334 and ask for the Assessment Team.

Children’s hospice care

Children’s hospices provide respite and terminal care for children with life threatening or life limiting conditions in family friendly settings. Support also includes bereavement support.

Eligible children in the Poole area may be able to access 2 local facilities:

  • Julia’s House: a registered charity based in Poole, currently offering day care support provided in the child’s home. Eventually they may be able to provide overnight care but do not currently have the resources to do so
  • Naomi House: a purpose built residential unit near Winchester, dedicated to providing both respite and terminal care, help and support to accommodate the whole family or the child separately as appropriate

Although parents can contact either facility directly, referrals generally originate from consultants or paediatric community nurses and their endorsement of the child’s needs will be required for care to be offered.

If you would like further information about respite or hospice care for your child, please email

Page last updated: 26 August 2021
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