Family Link carer

The Family Link Service is a short break service for families who have disabled children aged between 0-19 years living in Cambridgeshire. The service links a family which has a disabled child to a family who can help share the care of the child by welcoming them into their home. This could be for some care during the day or an overnight stay once or twice a month. This depends on the needs of the child, their family and what the carer is able to offer. To find out more, you can:

Request an information pack

or call us on 0800 052 0078. You can also come to one of our information sessions. These informal events give you the opportunity to meet members of our fostering team and existing carers.

What all carers have in common is a sense of commitment, motivation and time to offer on a regular basis as well as patience, a sense of humour and plenty of energy. Carers need to be sensitive to all levels of discrimination and see the child first, whatever difficulties the child experiences. Most importantly carers must build the child’s self-esteem and feeling of self-worth. Many of our Link carers have extensive experience and skills in working with disabled children, however full training and support is available.

In addition to the training course completed by all Cambridgeshire County Council foster carers, Link carers will be given further training as part of their Training Support and Development Induction Programme. The training we offer covers the wide range of subjects needed to deliver a high quality short breaks service. Carers working with children who have clinical medical needs, epilepsy or manual handling requirements receive specialist training.

The Link team of social workers and child and family workers take responsibility for the assessment, training, monitoring and supervision of new carers. The Link social worker gets to know prospective carers very well. Through the assessment process, they ensure that new carers understand the responsibilities involved and to ensure the maximum safety for children.

We take up several references and statutory checks for each carer and other members of the household and we make several home visits to interview each member of the family. The assessment process is very thorough and takes several months to complete. Link is part of the wider Fostering Service and potential carers also attend the Skills to Foster preparation course. We then compile a report to give a clear picture of the applicant’s background and motivation which is presented to the Fostering Panel.

It is ultimately the decision of the panel to recommend approval. This recommendation is then ratified by the Agency Decision Maker before applicants are confirmed as Link carers.

Barbara and Neil

Jake is 8 and lives in Sawston. He has been visiting his Link carers Barbara and Neil for over 4 years. They collect him on Sunday mornings, leaving his parents, Sharon and Jonathan, much needed time to relax and spend quality time with their other children.

Sharon said, “I always sleep in bed with Jake because he has seizures through the night, so I often feel very tired. Jake is very strong willed and active, when he’s at home we have to keep all the doors and windows locked to keep him safe. To have just a few hours when I can switch off and spend time with our other kids or have chance to do the small things other people take for granted, like have a shower uninterrupted, makes a huge difference”.

Neil and Barbara live round the corner. They have a well-established routine of activities which Jake enjoys each week. Neil explained, “we just do simple things like go for a walk to buy the paper then play football, teach Jake card games and make fresh orange juice. We also take Jake out for trips to nearby places like the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge where he loves having hot chocolate”.

Sharon added “Jake’s Link carers are a big part of his life, one week we were away so he wasn’t able to spend time with them and he reminded me that Sunday should be a Barbara and Neil day!”

Neil and Barbara have been involved in the Family Link Service for many years and have built up a number of long-term, close relationships with disabled children and their families. They said “the role can have challenges which you have to consider before applying, especially if you are a Link carer while your own children are growing up. But friends who hear about our work and the difference it makes are often tempted to become Link carers themselves and we always encourage anyone who is interested to come forward and find out more.”


Janet lives in Huntingdon and has been a Link carer for over 20 years. Janet said “Link appealed to me and my husband Terry because it gave us the opportunity to help disabled children and their families in a way that fits well with our own lifestyle The children we care for take part in family occasions and we take them to social events we’re invited to”.

Alongside working 4 days a week, Janet has been caring for 16 year-old Tia, also from Huntingdon, for two nights a week over the last nine months. Tia is unable to speak, but a strong bond has built up between her and Janet, allowing them to communicate effectively. Staying with Janet gives Tia the time and opportunity to enjoy all her favourite activities. “Tia loves taking long baths, playing with noisy toys and watching her favourite cartoon. She responds really well to sensory experiences and loves having a ride in my convertible car with the roof down.”

Tia’s mum Tracy also benefits greatly from the time Tia spends with Janet. Tia wakes frequently at night and is up very early in the morning, so her mum needs regular breaks. Tracy also has three other children at home, including seven year old Nicole (pictured) and the respite care offered by Link allows her to spend more quality time with them.

Tracy said “I feel very confident leaving Tia to stay with Janet and Terry and I know Tia loves spending time with them. Whenever we walk past she tries to pull me towards their house because she wants to see them”. As a Link carer, Janet has cared for children with a wide range of needs and receives special training for each individual child. However, there are still challenges involved in the role.

Janet explained “You have to be able to cope with being completely responsible for a disabled child in your own home. Potential carers should also be prepared for a rigorous assessment, but this is a necessary part of the process and is really important to ensure that you are right for the role”. “There are huge benefits to being a Link carer and you can work the hours that suit you. So if you have any spare time, come forward to find out more.”

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