Skip to main content
Holiday support

Accessing support during school and college holidays

Local offer and research

Every council must publish a local offer. This will tell you what support is available for children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities, and their families. It should include information about Education, Health and Care (EHC) provisions, together with any holiday or other programmes available in the area. Your local authority may not always keep its local offer as up-to-date as hoped, but it can be a good starting point.

Try also searching for ‘activities for SEND children and families’ or ‘activities for SEND young people and families’. Each local authority should have information specifically on accessible activities.


Short breaks

Although not just for school or college holidays, short breaks are opportunities for parents and carers to have a break from their caring responsibilities.

Local authorities are required to provide short break services and make it clear how families can access them. Some short break schemes may be described as ‘universal’, which means they are available to all children, and you don’t need an assessment to access them. If there is an eligibility criteria for short breaks these must be fair.

You can speak to your local authority to find out about what short breaks are on offer in your area.


Children and young people who receive free school meals

Children and young people aged five to 16 who are eligible for free school meals, and their families, will be able to access free activities during the Easter, summer and Christmas holidays.

The scheme known as the ‘Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme’ operates in all local authorities. To find more information on the scheme, search online for ‘HAF and the name of your local authority’ or alternatively, phone your local council for information.


Children and young people with care needs

Where children and young people have care packages – either an adult care plan or child in need plan – it is reasonable to ask for an increase in support to cover the school holidays. 

We would advise speaking to your social worker (if you have one) or to make a call to social services to ask about your child or young person attending a day centre during the school/college holidays or having increased carer hours and/or respite. This helps avoid the struggle of finding activities every holiday.

The best scenario would be to plan this in advance and have a holiday care package agreed on an annual basis and put into the care plan. Plans are reviewed at least annually and more frequently for children. You can ask at the review, or earlier, for the plan to be amended to include holiday care hours or respite provision in your plan. The support can be delivered through direct payments, through local authority carers or at day services.


Respite programmes

Respite care may be generally available to carers to give them a break from their caring responsibilities. Respite can be requested for the school/college holiday so it is worth asking your local authority if you can access a holiday respite service either for your son or daughter.  

An assessment would need to take place to access funding, which will be undertaken by your local authority. You can also search for a respite provision in your local area to see what is available. Respite can be a for a period of hours through to overnight stays.

If you are given a respite budget there may be holiday programmes that you can access from respite providers such as Mencap, Br3akfree or DALO.


SEND summer provision

There may be drop in or pay per session activities at local day centres, look to see what is in your area. You can also check out local attractions, local community centres and local ‘what’s on calendars’.


Services in your area

Look for other services in your local area such as youth clubs, befriending or mentoring services and parent and carers support groups as they may offer holiday activities or be a source of useful information.

Autism Central is a programme that offers free information and support to families of autistic people across England. We run the London and Midlands hubs, alongside the disability charity Contact. Find out more about the support available to you.


Talk about Autism

Talk about Autism is an online community for parents and carers of autistic children and young people. It enables parents and carers to connect with each other to share information, ask questions and access an expert webinar series.

Join Talk about Autism


Ambitious Youth Network

The Ambitious Youth Network is an online community to enable more autistic young people to have their voices heard.

Through the network, autistic young people between the ages of 16 to 25 can share experiences, connect with others, have their say on Ambitious about Autism’s projects as well as access a range of opportunities to advocate and improve services for autistic young people. 

Join the Ambitious Youth Network