West Sussex County Council is looking for more short break carers to help disabled children and their families.
Short breaks give children and young people planned periods of care away from their families or foster carers and can range from a few hours during the day to longer, overnight stays. They help children spend time away from their families, helping them develop independence, gain confidence and enjoy a wider social network.
It also gives families the chance to do many things others take for granted, such as spending quality time with their other children or simply being able to shop without the anxiety of having to cope with wheelchairs.
Frances and Alan, from the Bognor Regis area, have been short break carers in West Sussex for three years, giving children and young people time away from their families to explore new activities and opportunities.
And Frances says they have not looked back since, looking after five children for short spells – although not at the same time.
She said: “It’s a bit like being an auntie or an uncle for a few hours or a few days at a time, and you get to have fun with the child.
“We’ve had the school holidays recently, and during that time we’ve had lots of days out to local parks and attractions
“It’s extremely rewarding, especially as you see the child develop and grow and you know that you’ve been a part of that.
“It isn’t easy, but each time a child visits you can see the difference it makes to that family and it makes it all worthwhile.”
Peter Evans, County Council Cabinet Member for Children – Start of Life, said: “Caring for a child or young person with a disability can be extremely demanding, so being able to share the care – even for a short time – can make it that little bit easier.
“Short break carers give children the chance to take part in activities that non-disabled children often take for granted – as well as giving parents a well-deserved break from the demands of caring.
“Our short break carers come from a range of ages and backgrounds, but they all share a love of working with children and they make a really positive difference to families across West Sussex.”
A comprehensive training programme, which includes how to care for specific needs, is provided for short break carers. On-going support is also available. Short break carers are paid either for overnight stays or an hourly rate if care is during the day.
To find out more about becoming a short break carer, visit the website or call the Fostering Recruitment Team on 01403 229333.