Short break carer Claire Jupp is urging people in Cheshire East to join her to ‘Be The Big Difference’ in the life of a disabled child and their family.
With support from Cheshire East Council, Claire, a 36-year-old single mother, provides regular short breaks for four children with autism and other health needs.
As Share The Care Week gets underway she is backing a national campaign by the charity Shared Care Network to raise awareness of the service.
The campaign encourages people to ‘Be The Big Difference’ by volunteering as a short break carer.
Short breaks is the service most commonly requested by the families of disabled children.
It offers families the opportunity to take a regular break from the demands of caring while playing a vital role in the child’s personal and social development.
Claire, who lives in Congleton with her 15-year-old daughter Bethany, began providing short breaks for a boy with autism last summer.
She enjoyed the experience so much that she is now taking on the role full-time and will soon be caring regularly for six children with differing health needs.
“Without question, becoming a short break carer is the best thing I have ever done. It is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling,” said Claire.
“It gives the best of both worlds - the children and I get to have fun together while their families enjoy a well-deserved break.
“I care for each child at different times to suit their families, for example for a few consecutive nights or on a regular day each week.”
“Each day is different and I love the variety the role brings.”
Claire was introduced to short break caring by Cheshire East Council after making enquiries into becoming a foster carer.
“I had never heard of short break caring and once I found out what it involved it really appealed to me,” she said.
“I would strongly encourage anyone who thinks they may be able to spare the time to provide short breaks to find out more.
“Even just a few hours a month could make an enormous difference to the life of a disabled child and their family.”
Research by the Shared Care Network suggests that while 10,000 disabled children nationally are currently receiving short breaks, another 10,000 could benefit if enough carers could be recruited.
In Cheshire East it is estimated that another 12 part-time short break carers and three full time specialist short break foster carers are needed to support the eight children currently waiting for a short break.
Councillor Paul Findlow, Cabinet member with responsibility for children and families, said: “Short break carers come from all walks of life and may or may not have children of their own.
“They may choose to look after a disabled child for a few hours or a few days at a time, depending on how much time they have to offer.
“Prospective carers attend a training course to prepare them for looking after a disabled child and we provide ongoing training, support and an allowance.
“I would urge more people to take on this rewarding opportunity to make a big difference to the lives of disabled children and their families.”
A recent national survey identified that only three in 10 people know about the opportunity to become a short break carer.
Despite this low awareness, a relatively high percentage - one in five - said they would consider providing a short break when told how the service works.
Anyone who would like to find out more can call Cheshire East Council’s fostering hotline on 0300 123 3223. Further information about short break caring can be found at www.thebigdifference.org.uk