We all need a break from time to time, and for families with disabled children this is especially important.
It can be hard for parents of disabled children to find opportunities to step back from their child’s care. It can also benefit disabled children hugely to have a break from their normal routine, a change of scenery and the chance to meet new people and make new friends.
Our Family Link service gives disabled children and their families the chance to do this. It provides short breaks for disabled children in a safe environment for anything from a few hours at a time, to a few days a month depending on the child’s needs. This gives them valuable time to spend with others, and a break for their family from the everyday responsibilities of caring for their child.
How does Family Link work?
We wouldn’t be able to provide our invaluable Family Link service without the help of people like you. We have a team of Family Link carers who we work closely with to link them with a family who needs their support to take over the care of their disabled child.
They open their home to disabled children so they can experience time away from their families, this could even be their first time away from home. Family Link care all happens in an environment where the child’s family can be confident the child is happy and feels secure.
By providing this care, our Family Link carers know they are helping out a family and giving them the quality time they need in addition to giving their child the chance to:
- Have new experiences
- Meet new people and build new friendships
- Have opportunities to become more independent
- Develop their social skills
- Build their confidence
When Sarah visits her Family Link carer, I know she is well cared for. As a parent of a disabled child, it’s so important to have confidence in those caring for your child. Sarah’s carer is brilliant and I know she is happy and safe with her, which gives me peace of mind to spend quality time with my other children.
Could I be a Family Link carer?
We are always looking for new Family Link carers to join our brilliant team. You can make a real difference to a disabled child and their family by taking on this rewarding role.
You don’t need any special qualifications, but you do need to passionate about helping disabled children and their families.
Our Family Link carers come from diverse cultures and backgrounds and their circumstances are all different. If you work, you can continue your employment and be a Family Link carer, we will work together with you and our families with disabled children to find the link that best suits the needs of both families.
Ideally we are looking for people who have experience of working with or caring for disabled children or adults, and people who can provide a loving home for a disabled child and commit to helping and supporting their family by providing regular short breaks for their child.
Support you will receive as a Family Link carer
In return for being part of our team of Family Link carers, we offer a full package of training and support and a financial allowance. We will support you by providing:
- Training including safeguarding, safer caring, manual handling, first aid, child development or specific training to meet the individual needs of the child you’re caring for
- Support and advice from our team of child social care professionals
- A dedicated Family Link supervising social worker who will support you in your role
- Support from our team of Family Link carers including support groups and family fun days
- Contacts and links with relevant services and resources in Northamptonshire
How do I become a Family Link carer?
If you’d like to know more, please complete the online form below:
Register your interest
I never thought giving up some of my time to become a Family Link carer would be so rewarding. I provide care for a disabled child for one weekend a month and I know it means so much to the families I work with, and it has brought so many benefits to mine.
Steps to becoming a Family Link carer
We will support you every step of the way on your journey to becoming a Family Link carer.
Step 1 - Initial enquiry
Once we have received your initial enquiry, our friendly social work team will arrange for a social worker to visit you in your home to get to know you and your family.
Step 2 – Checks and assessments
We will need to carry out some checks and assessments to make sure you are ready to become a Family Link carer, and so your application can be considered for approval. The social worker will explain this to you in more detail.
Step 3 – Family Link panel
The Family Link Panel will consider your application and will make a decision on your suitability to become a Family Link carer.
Step 4 – Approval and placement
Once you are approved as a Family Link carer, we will work closely with you to find the right family for you to work with as a Family Link carer. This will include building a relationship with the family and the child to ensure the link will work well for both families.
Sarah's story - family link carer
Sarah has been a Family Link carer for Northamptonshire County Council’s Family Link for 20 years. She looks after children with complex needs to give their families a break on a short term basis – this could be for a few hours or a few days at a time.
A family decision to help out
I really love children and there’s always been a special place in my heart for children with disabilities. I used to work on the children’s ward at my local hospital and at a school, so I’m used to being around children with different needs and have gained lots of experience looking after children with different conditions such as Down’s syndrome, autism, ADHD and other complex health needs.
I saw an advert for Family Link carers and knew I had a lot to offer so was keen to find out more. I’m married with my own children and two step children, so it had to be a family decision for us, I have to say that it was an easy decision to make, and we’ve never looked back since I was approved. It’s been so good for all of us, we all help out!
I’m currently looking after three different children on a rotational basis. This includes overnight and day care. However long the stay, I tailor it to them and make sure it will be a good break for them. With disabled children, you have to go at their pace and settle them into a routine so they feel supported.
Supporting the children's families
They have all been coming to stay with me for a little while now so I have built up a good relationship with their families. It’s so important to do that as it helps makes sure the care I give fits in with their needs as well as the children’s. Each family is different and so I need to be flexible in how I work with them. For some parents I may need to reassure them their child is fine during their stay, or that I am looking after their child in a way that they are comfortable or familiar with. Parents need to have confidence in my care of their child and to know that if I am worried at all, I would contact them. Building up a good working relationship with families is very important and is something that develops over time.
You have to take an individual approach for each child as they are all so different. We plan lots of activities to keep them busy, and while they are staying with us I want them to feel part of the family. I make a photo story book for them to remind them of all the fun we had together and to help them remember us for when they come to stay again.
The support I’ve had from my social worker since becoming a Family Link carer is brilliant. I know she is always there if I need her, which is so reassuring. There’s also a support group that’s great, and lots of training courses which are tailored to the different needs of the children we look after. I’ve recently completed some refresher courses including dealing with epilepsy and first aid, so it’s all really relevant, I’ve learnt loads. I am also included in any meetings about the child, so am able to contribute to these and also learn more about the child as a result which helps me support them better.
The good thing about being a Family Link carer is that you can build your skills and knowledge on the job and you learn lots from each child about their condition and how best to support them.
Rewards outweigh the challenges
It can be emotional at times and there are challenges along the way, but the rewards far outweigh these. I’ve had some tough experiences but have always come out the other side. When you see how well the children are doing, you know it’s worth it. You’re making memories with them and that’s so important. When we see them and they’ve grown up, they remember you and talk about staying with you, it melts your heart! It’s then you see you’ve made a difference in their life.
When I tell people what I do, they always have so much admiration and many say it’s something they would consider doing in the future. I say to them "don’t put it off, get in touch with the council now, there are children who need you! You can make it work for you and your family, it doesn’t have to take over your life. It’s such a positive thing and you’re giving a child the opportunity to learn and grow as well as giving a family some much needed time for them."