Short break services in a UK county were studied using a postal survey of 256 families with a child with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Results confirmed high degrees of stress and low levels of informal support for all families, but no significant difference in the informal support available to non-users as compared to users of short break services. Robinson & Stalker's (1990) 10-point dependency scale showed a significant difference in dependence and more difficult behaviors between children of users and non-users. However, a large number of non-users had children with high dependence (scoring > 7 points). Access was denied by the age of the child (under 11) diagnosis (Asperger syndrome), educational placement (mainstream) and lack of social worker referral.