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3.1.10 Short break care

Last Modified: 24-Mar-2022 Review Date: 04-Jan-2021


To inform child protection workers (CPWs) of the procedures for arranging short break care to support foster, family and significant other carers (carers) who are caring for a child in the CEO's care.

Note:  CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities (the Department).

  • Short break care arrangements must be tailored to meet the child's needs, taking into consideration their age, views, abilities, vulnerabilities and best interests. Decisions must also be informed by the child's care plan.
  • An Aboriginal practice leader (or other Aboriginal officer) must be consulted when considering short break care options for an Aboriginal child.
  • Cultural and religious issues must be identified and considered when arranging short break care for a child from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) background.
  • When it is identified that a Department carer requires additional short break care (in excess of five days per calendar month), consultation must occur with the team leader, assistant district director or district director.
  • Assist must be updated to record short break care as a 'temporary living arrangement', including the date that the child enters and leaves the care arrangement.  The leaving (end) date must be entered promptly and accurately so payments are correctly made to the child's carer and the short break carer.
  • Where a child is in the CEO's care but living with his or her parents, any movement from a parent to a Department carer must be recorded in Assist as a 'temporary living arrangement'. The carer will be paid the general carer subsidy rate.


Process Maps

Not applicable

Information and Instructions

  • Overview
  • The child's care team
  • Consultation with the senior child protection worker - placement services
  • Arranging for payment to the short break carer
  • Extended short break care
  • Fee-for-service care arrangements
  • Overview

    Short break care (formerly known as respite care and still recorded as respite on Assist) refers to the provision of temporary, short term care for a child in the CEO's care with an approved carer. This can be a useful tool for supporting care arrangements.

    Department carers are entitled to five days of short break care per month, per child in their care. The short break carer is paid at the 'short break care' subsidy rate and the carer's subsidy continues to be paid.

    Short break care may be regular and planned for the child, or may be in response to crisis situations that arise within the care arrangement. Where possible, the child should have continuity of short break carers.

    The child's age, views (where age and capacity permits), abilities, vulnerabilities and best interests must be taken into account when determining short break care arrangements.

    Child protection workers should support the carer to prepare the child for short break care and involve them in planning for the transition in care arrangements.  Child protection workers should provide the child's carer with the Short break care – Information Sheet (in related resources). The information sheet provides some tips on preparing children for short break care, planning the transition, and what they can do to support the child during and after their stay.


    The child's care team

    ​The care team approach highlights the importance of all members in a child's care team working together with the child at the centre of their thinking and interactions with each other. Each care team member provides invaluable support and participates in meeting the needs of the child including maintaining his or her care arrangement. Refer to the Care Team Approach Practice Framework (see related resources) for further information.

    Child protection workers should consider who might be available within the child's care team to offer short break care. The aim of the care team is to provide natural supports that would exist outside of the Department's involvement and can provide critical support to the child during times of transition or change. Child protection workers should consider how care team members might be able to support the child before, during and after their short break care.

    If a CPW identifies a member of the child's care team as suitable to provide non-regular (for example, one-off) overnight care for the child they should refer to Chapter 3.2: Overnight stays and other activities and the document Determining when a Record Check is Required (in related resources).

    If a CPW identifies that a care team member may be suitable to provide ongoing or regular overnight care options, then a family or significant other carer assessment must be completed so they can be appropriately recorded as a short break carer.

    When the planned arrangement involves an overnight stay, they need to be recorded in the 'living arrangement' component in Assist (temporary living arrangement).

    A child's carer may make occasional overnight care arrangements, for example, a sleepover at a friend's house, without notifying the Department. Where the Department arranges or becomes aware of overnight care arrangements, regardless of whether they are provided by an approved carer or not, we must record these arrangements.

    In circumstances where the arrangement is not with an approved carer, it must be recorded in the 'living arrangement' component in Assist as an unendorsed person with the reason for entering as 'planned respite' and the care arrangement type 'respite'. 


    Consultation with the senior child protection worker - placement services

    When a carer requests short break care for a child in their care, the CPW should consult with the senior child protection worker – placement services (SCPWPS) to identify an appropriate care arrangement.

    In some instances, short break care may not be in the immediate best interests of the child. For example, an infant's need for attachment and bonding or a child who has experienced significant changes in their care arrangements and may need stability as a priority. When contemplating a short break care arrangement under such circumstances, the child's need for security and the carer's expectations regarding short break care should be taken into consideration. Where there is conflict between the interests of the child and the carer, the child's needs should be prioritised in negotiation with the carer. This may result in the short break care not going ahead or being delayed, to enable the child's security and attachment needs to stabilise.


    Arranging for payment to the short break carer

    Short term care arrangements for the child can include placement with another Department carer or a carer within the central carer support program.

    Assist must be updated to record the short break care as a 'temporary living arrangement' and include the date that the child enters the care arrangement and the end date. Insertion of the end date is critical to ensure the correct payment to the short break carer, and to continue payment to the child's primary carer. 



    Extended short break care

    Extended short break care is a planned event that is designed to support the child and their carer to meet their care arrangement needs. The extended short break care needs must be recorded in the case plan. 

    Consultation must occur with a team leader, assistant district director or district director before extending any period of short break care outside of the five day entitlement each month. The consultation is recorded in Assist in the 'Living Arrangement' screen (Description Field) for the period of the short break care.

    All periods of extended short break care are paid for via Assist.  For example, if a Department carer has eight days short break care approved (i.e. five days normal entitlement and three days extended), the carer will be paid eight days at the general carer subsidy rate. The short break carer will be paid five days at the short break care rate and three days at the general subsidy rate.

    Note: where short break care is extended beyond five days in a month, payment to the child's carer will be considered an overpayment unless district director, assistant district director or team leader consultation has occurred.



    Fee-for-service care arrangements

    Short break care is not provided to carers of children in fee-for-service care arrangements with community sector organisations (CSOs). The need for short break care should be assessed and managed by a CSO within their existing funding arrangements.

    The Department may consider providing short break care for a specific time limited purpose in exceptional circumstances. For example, if the CSO is not able to provide short break care.  In such instances, the CSO may be required to reimburse the Department as a result of a reduction in the bed count number.

    A temporary care arrangement may occur while a child is in in a fee-for-service care arrangement where:

    • overnight contact with an approved family or significant other carer is a provision of the child's care plan, or
    • a significant relationship has been established between the child and a non-related Department carer, and ongoing contact is a provision of the care plan.

    The aim of these arrangements is to support the child's identity and connection to people significant in their life. In these circumstances the arrangement is considered a temporary care arrangement as its purpose is contact for the child, not short break care for the child's carer.  The rationale and forward planned dates should be outlined in the child's care plan.

    The change in care arrangement must be recorded by the CPW or SCPWPS on the temporary living arrangement screen in Assist.