Specialist short break services aim to provide enhanced support to family carers as a means of preventing children whose behaviours severely challenge from being placed in full-time residential care. To date, there is limited evidence as to the functioning and effectiveness of such services.Methods
In all, 17 children were selected at random from the 123 who were currently receiving services or had done so in the past 2 years from three specialist short break and community support services. For each child, interviews were conducted with a parent, the child's key worker within the service and the professional (mostly social workers) who had referred families to the services.Results
Five core themes captured the informants’ common experiences: the complexities underlying the provision of services; the negotiations required to implement, maintain and adjust service packages; the relationships forged by the services; and the benefits they brought to children and families plus concerns about the future also featured.Conclusions
Specialist short break services can make a vital contribution to retaining children within their families, but under some important conditions which this study has identified: notably, the management of complexity, the formation of trusted relationships and creation of tangible benefits for the family and for the child.