EHIPs & Short Breaks questions: response from Cheshire East Short Breaks Team

We have received the following response to our members’ questions from from Keith Martin and the Children with Disabilities Short Breaks Team.  We will contact all members with details once we hear about future briefing events.  

Remember, if you need to contact the team you can do so by calling 01625 378083 or sending an email to Shortbreaksteam@cheshireeast.gov.uk

Q: What is EHIPS?
Please can we have a description / definition – is it for the benefit cared for and / or carer? 

Early Help Individual Payments (EHIP’s) form part of the Local Authorities Short Break Support for Parent Carers of Disabled Children.  The second part of the Short Break Support is the commissioned services that provide activities and clubs.

An EHIP is an annual payment of up to £1,000 for parent carers of disabled children under the age of 18 to purchase support for themselves that would enable them to take a break from their caring responsibility.  The payment is for the parent carer, however the support that is purchased should be meaningful for their child.

Q: Who is eligible?
What criteria are applied – does it remain unchanged while CCiL are managing? If so please state clearly what current criteria are and what they will be from transfer

If a child is receiving High Rate Disability Living Allowance (DLA), either care and or mobility component or a young person aged 16 or 17 is receiving Personal Independence Payment  (PIP) either care and or mobility component then the parent carer is eligible for an EHIP’s.  We use DLA and PIP as our eligibility criteria as this is a way of us determining that the child has a disability without having to undergo an assessment.  Although we use Department of Works and Pensions (DLA and PIP) as our eligibility, EHIP’s are not part of the Benefit System, they are solely administered as part of our Short Breaks Local Offer

This will remain unchanged whilst the Cheshire Centre for Independent Living (CCIL) manage the EHIP’s process.  CCIL will cease to manage this contract from April 1st 2018, when EHIP’s will move to the New Short Breaks Team. 

We will continue to use this eligibility criteria after 1st April 2018, however we are going to expand the criteria as we are aware that recent changes in DLA and PIP has meant that some children and young people previously able to access them no longer can.  To ensure that these children and young people are able to access support we will also consider children and young people eligible for an EHIP if they could not access any of our commissioned support without an EHIP, for example a child who could only access one of our activity groups with 1:1 support.  This will be determined on a case by case basis for those children and young people not in receipt of DLA or PIP.

Q: What can it be spent on?
Please give a clear definition, including examples of what is and isn’t acceptable. 
Members have cited several instances where their claim seems to meet the description, but has not been allowed, leaving them out of pocket
This situation then leaves others fearful of spending the benefit as they cannot afford to risk being left out of pocket themselves

EHIPs can be spent on support that provides the parent carer with a break from their caring responsibility, whilst ensuring something meaningful for the child. 

Good examples of the use of EHIPs:

  •  Paying for a carer or personal assistant to take the child or young person out on an activity
  • Paying for a carer or personal assistant to accompany the family on a holiday
  • School holiday clubs
  • Membership to a sports club or gym for the child or young person
  • Fees for a youth club or other social clubs, that are not already part of our commissioned short break services
  • Specialist disability swimming lessons or trampoline clubs
  • Paying for your child or young person to attend a residential break

Q: Please share the guidelines referred to previously, that set out the requirement that parents have to be separate from their child / YP in order for it to constitute a short break for the parent

The national statutory guidance requires local authorities to provide short breaks that give parent carers a break from their caring responsibilities.  If for example a parent uses their EHIP to pay for a holiday in which they accompany their child, this does not constitute a short break, as the parent is there caring for the child.  If however the parent uses the EHIP to pay for a carer to accompany them on the holiday, who will take responsibility in whole or in part for caring for the child or young person, then this does constitute a short break.  The same might apply to buying a Merlin card for a carer to take the child out so a parent can have a break. The Short Breaks Team will be able to give families advice on how best they can use their EHIP’s

The statutory guidance that all local authorities have to work too is entitled ‘short breaks for carers of disabled children’ which we have included as a link below.  EHIPs constitutes part of Cheshire East’s short break ‘local offer’, this is the short breaks that are available to children, young people and their families without having to undergo an assessment of need, either through the National Assessment Framework for Children in Need and their Families or the Common Assessment Framework.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/short-breaks-for-carers-of-disabled-children

The Children Act 1989 (“the 1989 Act”) states that local authorities have a duty to provide, as part of the range of services they provide for families, breaks from caring for carers of disabled children to support them to continue to care for their children at home and to allow them to do so more effectively.

Q: What options are available for families whose children’s / YP’s needs are too complex for them to be go to activities without their primary carer?
Many parents have raised that they can no longer spend the money because of the requirement to be away from the child / yp – esp where there are attachment issues
Please can you share the alternative routes, including links to the charities mentioned by Cat, and direct payments

In terms of short break activities, this issue is about choice for parents and carers.  You should not be made to stay by our commissioned providers as by doing so you are not being given a break from you caring responsibilities.  If however you are given the choice to stay, for example to attend a parent coffee morning being run by the same provider and you decide for yourself that you would like to stay, that is fine.  Ultimately you must feel as parent carers that you have the ability to make a decision for yourself about whether you would like to stay or not. And not have the choice taken out of your hands.

If a child or young person is not able to access any activity independently or with a carer, therefore the parent carer is unable to receive a break from their caring responsibility, then EHIP’s is not the best way of supporting the child or young person.  In this situation we would be very happy to complete an assessment or to signpost families to providers outside of our short breaks local offer

Q: What reassurance can you offer to families whose previous experiences with Social Services has left them reluctant to try again?
Many parents have raised that they are not willing to go through the process of applying for SS assessments. They have experienced intrusive assessments (for example questioning them on their criminal background, drug / alcohol consumption, checking their standards of housekeeping, the child’s bedding, how safely the bleach is stored etc…) only to be told that as they are coping they do not qualify for any additional support. If this is no longer the experience then this is a great opportunity to explain what has changed & to reassure users.

These issues have been acknowledged by the authority and as a direct result of the feedback previously received from parent carers via the parent carers forum and others working with disabled children we have established a specialist children with disabilities social work team and the new short breaks team.  All members of both teams have experience of working with disabled children.  We have already received positive feedback from many parents and others across the wider disability network that this is improving assessment and service delivery.

We hope that these developments will reassure parent carers that we are committed to improving how we support disabled children and their families in line with our statutory responsibilities.

The lack of co-production at early stages of this process and ongoing lack of clarity in communications has led to a general feeling that the changes have not been made for the benefit of our members’ families, but to cut costs.  
A full communication would be an opportunity to publicly state that this is not the case and explain the benefits of the changes that have been made.

Representatives from the parent carers forum and individual parent / carers have been involved in seven engagement events over the last three years. This engagement has been enhanced by a parent / carers quick quiz, direct calls to recipients of EHIPs and through feedback via commissioned services. The development of a good short break support offer is a priority and the engagement with parent / carers has provided effective influence and direction to the redesigned offer.   Representatives from the parent carers forum are currently involved in the task and finish group that has been set up to ensure that the transition from our current contract with CCIL to the short breaks team is as seamless as possible.

It is regrettable that there is a general feeling that changes are not being made for the benefit of carers and I can categorically state that all the work that has been completed over the past many months has been with an aim to improve services, not as a cost cutting exercise.  The local authority’s legal duties around short breaks are to ensure that parent carers receive a break from their caring responsibility; there is no duty upon the local authority to provide Early Help Individual Payments to families, the authority could have taken the decision as many local authorities have across the country to directly commission support and signpost families directly to it.  After consultation with the parent carers forum we decided to maintain Early Help Individual Payments for parents to give them greater choice concerning how they receive breaks from care.  If this was solely a cost cutting exercise we surely would have ceased providing EHIPs.

We intend to publish an EHIP’s fact sheet as part of our local offer ‘Livewell’ webpages over the coming days and will establish EHIP’s surgeries that will operate through day and early evenings across the authority. These surgeries will be an opportunity for any parent, currently receiving EHIP’s and new cases, to discuss any EHIP issue with a member of the short breaks team

Cat Linde the short breaks team manager is currently identifying dates and venues and we will then publish and promote these events.

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