Frequently asked questions

1. What are the criteria? open accordion arrow

Families cannot apply for a break directly. They must be referred by someone working with them in a supporting role (see Q2 'Who can refer?')

We help families with a child or children under the age of 18 and those who care for them - be they parents, grandparents, carers or older siblings.

We work across the whole of the UK.

Short breaks:
Families must be on a low income (household income must be less than £24,000 or relevant means tested benefits).

For most of our breaks families must not have had a holiday in the last four years. Occasionally we are able to provide offers which are suitable for families with more recent holiday experience and this criteria does not apply.

If the family is caring for a disabled child, please see Q11 ‘What about families with a disabled child’

Group trips and days out:

Families must be on a low income*, not be going on holiday this year and be unlikely to afford a day out.

2. Who can refer? open accordion arrow

All the families we help must be referred to us by someone working with them in a supporting role. This ensures we assist those who most need our help and means families get the support they need to prepare for their break.

Referrers work or volunteer for a variety of organisations including:

  • Schools
  • Children / family services departments
  • Health visitors
  • Children’s centres
  • Charities
  • Refuges and domestic abuse support services
  • Housing associations
  • Community health teams

You should not be related to the family you are referring or have a close personal friendship.

If you’re not sure whether you should become a Referrer, we have found that the two points below accurately describe some of the more challenging work our Referrers undertake:

  1. A Referrer needs to be someone who knows the family well and can assess whether or not going on a holiday would cause or increase any risks for the family. Things occasionally do go wrong on holiday and sometimes the additional pressure of being away from home causes people to react differently. We ask that our Referrers are able to judge whether a break is right for a family at the time of application and again just before they are due to go (see our Risk Factors document for more information).
  2. A Referrer needs to be able to support the family in the run up to the break, helping them plan and prepare. If something goes wrong whilst a family is away, having a professional who knows them to offer support is very useful. This means that you will need to be working with the family up to, during, and beyond the date of the break (to help gather feedback).

This doesn’t sound like me!

If you know a family who you think would benefit from a break away, but you don’t feel you’re able to undertake the role of referrer, your role with the family could be in supporting them to find someone who can refer them. This is often something families find difficult. We have found from the list above that people working in schools, social care and in health visiting teams know families well enough to make the application.

To register with us as a referrer, visit the Referrer's Area. We will get back to you with your log-in details or a request for more information within one working day.

3. What is the role of the referrer? open accordion arrow

The referrer acts as the point of contact throughout the process. As well as submitting the application, referrers should help the family book and prepare for their break, pass on our contribution towards travel costs (if applicable) and ensure that feedback is sent in afterwards. They should be able to assess and monitor any risks that sending the family on a holiday may raise: please see our Risk Factors document for more information.

Families who have never been on holiday may not know what to expect so the referrer should be prepared to help the family with:

  • Clarifying holiday expectations and benefits
  • Assisting with arranging and booking transport
  • Booking the holiday
  • Preparing for challenges, i.e. managing risk
  • Advising about what to expect on holiday, including how to appropriately make a complaint immediately if something goes wrong
  • Advising/helping to plan the holiday budget and programme.

Referrers should not make an application if they are going to stop working with the family before the break takes place.

4. When is the best time to apply and how long does the process take? open accordion arrow

Short breaks

The process is finished once the family have been on their break and you have provided us with feedback. This normally takes a number of months. Please see our "What Happens Next?" page for more information.

We will open in December 2019 for breaks taking place in 2020 and remain open for applications until we have allocated all of our breaks. This is normally in early summer. The earlier you make an application the better the chance it has of being successful.

We will contact you with a decision within four weeks of application.

Breaks take place between mid-March and the end of October.

Group trips
Group trip applications can be submitted from January 22nd 2020. We aim to have at least two rounds of applications as outlined below.

Applications submitted before 10am on: Will receive a decision on: For trips taking place before:
17 February 2020 2 March 2020 31 December 2020
31 March 2020 30 April 2020 31 December 2020

We have some guidance notes for the kinds of group trips we would like to fund, which you can download here.

Make sure you have enough time to plan and book the trip after you receive a decision. Do not book or pay for anything before you get a decision as we won’t be able to fund all the applications we receive.

Days Out
Offers will come and go depending on what’s available so make sure you check the Referrer's Area regularly.

You will receive a decision on applications for days out within a week.

5. How do I apply and what information do I need from the family? open accordion arrow

You will need to register with us as a referrer before applying for a family you work with. To register, visit the Referrer's Area. We will get back to you with your log-in details or a request for more information within one working day. You can register as a referrer at any time.

At the point of application we do not ask for a family’s identifying information. But we do ask questions about families, such as:

•    How many adults and children you are applying for
•    Their local authority area
•    Confirmation that the family meet our criteria (see FAQ number 1)
•    How they might travel to and from a break
•    Information on the type of break most suited to the family. The majority of the time this will be a caravan break at a UK seaside holiday park but we can sometimes offer different breaks and days out as they are available.
•    Information from your point of view, and the family’s point of view, about why they need a break and how they hope to benefit, and how often the family currently engages in leisure activities together.

You can save your progress part way through completing an application. It will be saved in your "My Applications" page with the status "In Progress".

6. When I apply what happens next? open accordion arrow

Applications for a family to take a short break will go through a series of stages, finishing up with you completing feedback after the break takes place. You can read an outline of the whole process here.

7. How will I know if my application has been received? open accordion arrow

The application system will tell you when your application has been submitted and it will appear in the "My Applications" page within the Referrer's Area. Applications we've received will have an "In Assessment" status. If an application's status is "In Progress" then we have not had it yet.

If you need any further help, contact Grants@fhaonline.org.uk.

8. Do you offer breaks abroad? open accordion arrow

No, the breaks we offer are within the UK.

9. What about breaks during term time? open accordion arrow

The majority of families who are referred to us are facing circumstances that many would consider to be exceptional, and in exceptional circumstances a headteacher has the discretion to authorise absence during term time on a case by case basis.

Before a break is made, we encourage referrers and families to approach the school to discuss the application. If the family are offered a break and the school does not authorise absence and we receive this in writing from the school (email is fine) then a peak time break may be offered (subject to availability). We provide a letter with most offers that may help a family to approach their school to make this request for leave.

Many of our short breaks can be taken Friday-Monday so a child would only miss one day of school.

In 2017, referrers (including teachers and social workers) saw the following benefits in families:

Family better able to cope with challenges 87%
Children had new experiences 98%
Family were more optimistic about the future 95%
Reduced stress and worries 93%
Had a chance to spend more time together as a family 96%
Got on better as a family 92%
Had more confidence 86%
Had fun and created happy memories 99%

10. Do you help with travel arrangements? open accordion arrow

We are not able to help with planning or booking travel for families. We find that travel works best when referrers support families to plan and book tickets, and as someone who lives and works near to the family you will now local travel services far better than we will!

We are sometimes able to make a contribution towards travel costs for families going on short breaks.

Sometimes we receive offers from train or coach operators that could help families have a day out or travel to their short break. We will make any such offers available to referrers in the Referrer's Area.

11. What about families with a disabled child? open accordion arrow

Short breaks
We are set up to help families who would struggle to get a short break from elsewhere.

There are a number of charities and organisations set up to help families with a disabled child get a break. One of the largest of these is the Family Fund. The Family Fund gives grants to low-income families caring for ill or disabled children. They are charity that receive some government funding and are able to give grants for lots of things related to a child’s care needs, including a holiday.

We will only be able to consider an application for a short break if the family is not eligible for a grant from the Family Fund. More information on their eligibility criteria is available on their website at www.familyfund.org.uk, or contact them for more information at info@familyfund.org.uk or 01904 550 055.

If you have contacted them and the family is not eligible then you can make an application to us. Please note that if the family has received a grant this year from the Family Fund for something other than a holiday then we can consider an application, provided they meet our other criteria.

Group trips and days out
Families with a disabled child can be referred for these.

12. How do I get more information? open accordion arrow

Email the team at Grants@fhaonline.org.uk