Respite and Babysitting

Respite, Babysitting, Direct Payments & Personal Budgets

respite care for children with special needs

Everyone needs a break. Finding the right babysitter can really improve the quality of your and your child’s life. Your child needs a break from you, too. Whatever your child’s needs, there is always someone out there with the skills to help.

Depending on your child’s needs, you might be able to pay for babysitting through direct payments.

Personal Budgets

The new SEN and Disability reform bill says that your Local Authority needs to prepare a personal budget with your child's care and health plan. Your child's personal budget gives you a lot more choice about the services your child uses to support them. This might include direct payments that you can use to pay your specialist babysitter or respite care provider.


How to find a babysitter

Your local authority disabilities team might have a list of carers that they use. Alternatively, if you receive direct payments, your contact there might have a list of preferred agencies. If you want to find one on your own, here are a few places to look.

Your school or special needs school. There may be staff (teacher/teaching assistant/nursing staff) who would like to help out.
Your local hospice. It will often have a specialised outreach team who do respite in-house as well as out and about.
Remember to vet your babysitter carefully and look into their history as much as you can. Your local authority disabilities team will be able to advise you on how to find and vet a babysitter.

You might also find this advice from Directgov on finding and choosing childcare helpful.


Need a longer break?

Check out our holiday zone for ideas for short breaks where your child is fully medically supported – many of these are free or low-cost. Alternatively your local hospice may have weekends you can book in advance. Hospices offer support for a whole range of conditions, so check to see if your child might be included.

A lot of local charities also do days out with carers/chaperones. This might include your local Cerebral Palsy or Mencap group. Chat to your disability social worker, school Senco or special needs school to find local groups (Sky Badger will be expanding next year to include a local search facility, so keep checking back). Primary Times also lists local disability activities.

Personal Budgets

Direct payments can be used for a variety of services that offer your child stimulation, new experiences and independence. This includes short breaks, nursery placement with specialist support for your child, assistance to attend an activity, and personal care.


To get help paying for a specialist babysitter for your disabled or SEN child, you should contact your local Authority's disabilities team.

They will chat to you about doing an assessment. You can gets lots of help once you've signed up. Including help for your other children, short breaks and direct payments to cover your babysitter.

Find your local disabilities team using the Sky Badger local offer directory.

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Not sure where to turn?


Contact our helpdesk

Do you need specific help for your disabled or special needs child? Click here to tell us more about what you're looking for and our helpdesk team will do their very best to find you what you need. All of our advice is confidential and we will not share your details or personal information with anyone.