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Special care that makes a world of difference

A few hours a week could be the world of difference to a disabled child and their family here in Cornwall.  That’s why Cornwall Council is launching an appeal to recruit more short-break foster carers across the county.

There is currently a shortage of people to fulfil the role, which involves looking after a child or young person with a disability (from 0-18) for regular weekends or holidays in your own home. 

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Short Breaks for disabled children have been proven to bring enormous benefits, by giving them a new home from home and professional 1:1 care away from their family instead of spending time in a specialist unit.

Sally, a short break carer for over 7 years, said: “Simply meeting and being with disabled children and young people makes short breaks so special. Many of them have a wicked sense of humour, so just being around them is so enjoyable.  What’s also special is knowing that you’ve made a difference to someone else’s life by making their everyday just a little easier.”

Like general fostering, there is a shortage of Short Break carers across Cornwall and the rest of the UK right now but, according to Cornwall Council’s Head of Disabled Children and Therapy Services, Yvette Yates, while Short Break carers can go on to make excellent foster carers, they can choose whether they wish to make that progression: “Short Break carers need all of the same attributes as foster carers but the route to becoming a Short Break carer is less complex, the difference being that you are working in tandem with the parents of the child rather than as the sole carer.

“The benefits of Short Breaks are clear for everyone involved; it is much better for the child to stay in a family environment than go to a care home as part of a group and our carers experience the real joy of bonding with these remarkable young people and being part of their family.”

Giving a little time back to parents with disabled children is what Short Breaks are all about. Arranged through Cornwall Council’s Together for Families, these breaks are designed to give parents a break from their caring role, or to allow them to focus on other sons and daughters– for a day, a weekend, or maybe just for a couple of hours.

Cabinet Member for Children and Well Being, Councillor Sally Hawken, said: “Short break foster carers provide a very valuable gift to young people in their care and their families – Time.  Time to be themselves, time to try something new or time to simply be and that’s why we are launching this appeal.

“As a short break foster carer, you will be supporting the family and the children themselves to have a more enriched and fulfilled life. Supporting someone to go riding, walking, swimming, to play games, rest, relax and even learn independent living skills like shopping or cooking a meal – It may not sound like much, but it can be a world of difference.”

Short Breaks can be just as rewarding for the foster carer as well, as they get to work closely with the child and their parents. Special relationships can develop as a result and this can really help the child to build life skills such as becoming more independent and developing trust.

As part of the journey to becoming a short break carer, specialist training is given to carers to meet the needs of each individual child, meaning they can provide the best care and support for these youngsters in their own home or out and about in Cornwall.