Youngsters in Ealing benefitting from an intensive therapeutic and short break service

Case study summary

A service for young people with a learning disability, autism or both is helping keep them at home with their families and communities.


The intensive therapeutic and short breaks service (ITSBS) provides clinical psychology and social care to the young person, family and frontline workers, including additional and intensive short breaks as needed.  The service first began in 2008 when it was noticed that most children going into residential care were boys over the age of 11 with a learning disability, autism and behaviour that challenges.

Since it began the service has gone from strength to strength and it now supports six to eight new young people and their families each year at the same time as continuing to work with previous families for as long as needed up to the age of 18.  The team has grown over the years and now includes a full time clinical psychologist, assistant psychologist and additional social care support as well as funding for short breaks as required.

The service works closely with other clinical psychologists, psychiatry and nursing from the child and adolescent mental health service learning disability team, the local authority service manager for children with disabilities, social workers in the children with disabilities team, special schools, short breaks staff and carers from a range of services and other members of the multi-agency service as needed e.g. paediatricians, occupational therapists, speech and language therapy and educational psychology.

The benefits of the service include giving parents more confidence, and making sure support stays in place after a time of crisis as well as being a more cost-effective alternative to residential care.

Parents who have been helped and supported by the service have said:

It has helped me to find positive solutions to my child’s problems…and made me look at my son’s problems in a different way. I no longer feel at the mercy of his temper and he doesn’t feel the need to lash out because he knows I’m on his side and I’m trying my best to understand him.

The way the psychologist considered every aspect of our child’s difficulties and worked out plans to help with each one, and getting other agencies involved e.g. short breaks, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy. She was very pro-active in helping us e.g. doing home visits and going out in the community with our child.

I used to cry every day and dread my child coming home, but now I cry less and sometimes even miss my child when he is out, and look forward to him coming home.

The short breaks the service can provide give families time to sleep, recover and reorganise the home environment, think about their child and their wishes for their future, go to appointments and consider and set up new ways of supporting their child.

Ealing intensive therapeutic and short breaks service (ITSBS) is a joint venture between West London NHS Trust, which operates Ealing CAMHS, and Ealing Social Care.

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