In the lead up to last month’s Virtual SEND Local Offer Drop-in, we asked Manchester City Council to collate questions that have been asked to the various providers so we can produce an FAQ to share to parents & carers.

They kindly obliged and sent us the following questions and answers (click or tap a question to view the answer):

“In the current circumstances we can’t agree to you using your direct payment for a befriender unless there are exceptional reasons, however we will support you to look at other ways this payment could be used. You could bank your hours and use them later in the year to pay for a befriender, or you could use your money to buy equipment for your child to use at home to keep them occupied or help them get some exercise, while you get a break.

Ideas for using your direct payment: what about a television subscription, equipment such as games, sensory toys, I pads, 3D Virtual stuff, big tent for the garden / indoors, cookery equipment, indoor mini gym equipment.

These are just some ideas, if you are not sure what you can spend your money on, contact the Specialist Resource team 0161 219 2125 or your social worker.”

“If the only way your child’s needs can be met is through help from a Personal Assistant, yes, as long as you are following Public health England guidance:

Sessions may need to take place in the home. Also, look at the guidance from Well Child charity:

“If you employ your own Personal Assistant, you could ask them if they are willing to bank the hours they normally provide for use later in the year. You could pay your PA for the next month while you both review the situation. The PA may be entitled to government support while they are not able to provide short breaks services to families:

The local authority is working with agencies that provide personal assistance and befriending services for families, to make sure they are able to continue offering services once the Coronavirus situation is over”

“This will depend on the service you are receiving. If your service provider is not able to operate at this current time we may consider a direct payment if appropriate to your family’s needs. For instance, if you normally receive a befriending service to take your child to the gym, we could look at providing a direct payment for play or exercise equipment that your child can use at home.

Alternatively, you could bank the hours you usually receive from the short breaks service and have them once life is back to normal.”

“The local authority will be able offer a payment rather than a service or you could bank the hours until the current restrictions are lifted.

Many schools will be able to offer some support to children of key workers and vulnerable children, including disabled children over school holidays, so check with your child’s school as this may provide the break you need currently.”

“The government guidance on minimising contact with people outside your household also applies to family members. It is especially important for older people, such as grandparents who are over 70 or who have underlying health conditions to stay and home.

You could use your direct payment to buy play equipment which other members of the family who live in your household could use with your disabled child.”

“Schools can continue to offer support to vulnerable children and children of key workers over school holidays. Speak to your school about what is available.

For most children who would usually attend a play scheme, but would be safer in the current situation staying at home, we will consider the use of direct payments as an alternative so families can buy appropriate play equipment.”

“The vast majority of children with significant health needs will be safer staying at home. If you feel you need to continue with overnight short breaks, speak to your social worker and the overnight provider.”

“All schools are sending out resources to pupils who are at home and putting resources on their websites. Manchester special schools are also sharing resources on their websites that are suitable for primary and secondary pupils with special educational needs. These include fun things you can do with your child, not just lessons. There are links to Manchester’s schools on the Local Offer website.

Schools are also contacting all pupils who are at home at least weekly.

Encourage your child to keep in touch with their friends and relatives through phone calls or social media following the national on-line safety advice.

Other parents will also have great ideas to share about what activities they have tried – see the Local Offer for links:

“Your social worker or specialist resource team worker will contact you to arrange for your support to continue if you still need it until they can arrange for a proper review. They may need to change the type of support you receive – for example, you may be given a direct payment, so you can buy play equipment.”

This is the info we got from the Short Breaks page on the Local Offer:

  • Short Break Reviews can be done over the phone.
  • Families just need to call 0161-219-2125 during the dedicated Drop In times
  • The SRT worker will call them back if they prefer.
“A member of staff from the Specialist Resource Team will contact you by phone or email to do a short breaks assessment. At the current time the only short break we can offer is a direct payment for play or ICT equipment to keep your son or daughter occupied at home. We will support you to find a way of using a direct payment that best meets your family’s needs. Once services are operating normally again if you would like to change to a service you can request a review of your short breaks by contacting the Specialist Resource Team 0161 219 2125 or your social worker.”

Family Fund charity offers grants towards items for disabled children.

You can apply for a Family fund grant via

Please note that most of the answers above are directly quoted from the FAQs that the local authority published on the Local Offer. We have put such answers within quotes (“”) to make it clear that the answers are not our own.

Where we put our own commentary in, we separated our answers from that of the city council’s using a horizontal line and our comments are in green text. This will be clear when you’re reading each FAQ item above.

We hope this helps. Any questions, please send us a message or contact Information, Advice and Support (IAS) Manchester or visit the SEND Local Offer.