Carers' breaks and respite care

Your carer's assessment may identify that you need a break from caring from time to time.

Carers' breaks are so you can look after your own health and wellbeing. For example, it may be that you need regular replacement overnight care so you can catch up on your sleep.

In certain situations, respite (temporary) care may be provided by your council after your carer's assessment or after the person you care for has had an assessment.

Your council or local carers' centre can give you information about local support.

Find your nearest local carers' centre or respite service.

There are various ways to arrange and pay for a carers' break:

  • using direct payments
  • council-arranged breaks
  • getting funding from a benevolent fund or charity
  • paying for your own break
  • bursaries and low-cost holidays
  • getting leisure discounts
  • friends and family helping out

Using direct payments

After your assessment, if you're eligible for support, your council will develop a support plan with you.

This will include a personal budget, which you can choose to have as a direct payment.

For example, you may choose to: 

  • hire a care worker through an agency so you can have a break
  • use the direct payment to pay for a supported holiday for both you and the person you care for

Replacement care provided by the council

Instead of a direct payment, you could ask the council to arrange services for you so you can have a break.

You can also use a direct payment to fund traditional forms of respite care, and you can pool your direct payments with other people's to fund services such as day centres.

Some councils provide vouchers (sometimes called respite grants, or carers' grants) that can be exchanged for services, such as those offered by care agencies or residential homes.

You might be able to use vouchers to pay for extra costs associated with your holiday, including live-in care workers, short-stay residential care, or the cost of more homecare.

You might want to consider:

Homecare services – these can either be day services that give you the chance to do an activity inside or outside the home, or night services that can help you get a proper night's sleep, or helpers coming to the home of the person you're caring for. Different types of help include sitting with the person you care for and keeping them company, preparing meals, and helping them to get up, washed and dressed. The care workers who come to your home can also provide social activities, such as taking the person you care for to the cinema, pub or shopping.

Residential or nursing care – this is where the person you're looking after goes for a short stay in a residential or nursing home. If you can, visit the care or nursing home beforehand so you can see what it's like. 

Day care – this is where the person you're looking after goes to a day centre or takes part in activities away from home.

If the replacement care is essentially a homecare service for the person needing care and allows you to take a break, it should be considered a service provided to the cared-for person and should therefore be charged to them, not you as the carer.

Find out more about carer's assessments.

Benevolent funds or charity funding

You may be able to get help with the cost of going on holiday – either alone or with the person you care for – from a charity or benevolent fund.

Your social worker, GP, health visitor or local carers' support group can give you more information on local benevolent funds.

You might find help from the following:

Family Fund has grants towards the cost of holidays for families on a low income who are caring for a child with a severe disability.

Family Holiday Association provides breaks at holiday sites, or grants to help with the cost of a holiday, to low-income families in need of a holiday away from home. You need to be referred by your social worker, GP or health visitor, or by a charity or other welfare agent.

Children's Country Holiday Fund has respite breaks in the countryside for young carers aged 6 to 16 and disadvantaged children and young people.

Paying for your own breaks

If the council decides it will not fund a break for you, you can still decide to pay for your own break from caring.

How you go about this will depend on your budget and the care options available to you locally.

Bursaries and low-cost holidays

Some charities offer low-cost holidays or bursaries to families.

The national charity Diabetes UK offers support holidays for families and young people. Holidays are low cost and a bursary can be offered to families who can't afford the travel costs to the UK holiday site. For more information call 020 7424 1000 (ask for the care support team).

Turn2us – is an independent charity that can help you find sources of financial support based on your needs and circumstances.

Leisure discounts

Many councils offer leisure cards. These can help you pay for activities you might like to do when you get a break from caring such as sporting activities at local leisure centres or visits to the cinema, theatre, libraries, museums, hairdressers and beauty salons.

They're often available to people claiming benefits such as Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Carer's Allowance and benefits for disabled people, students over 18 in full-time education, and people over 60.

The eligibility requirements vary between areas, but there's a good chance you'll qualify if you're a carer with a low income.

Help from friends and family

Friends and family can support you and the person you care for when you need a break from caring.

Make sure anyone who takes over from you has all the information they need to look after the person you care for. This may include what they like to eat and at what time, as well as more complex information about the medicines they need to take.

Leave a clear list of contacts in case there's an emergency. These should include the doctor's number, those of nearby family members and friends, and your own number.

If the person you care for needs specialist medical or nursing help while you're away, arrange this through their GP. This specialist help can include visits from a district nurse or from a community psychiatric nurse.

Taking a break with the person you care for

Check whether the destination is accessible for disabled people, whether it can cater to specific dietary requirements, and plan how you will travel. Many venues offer a discount for people who are ill or disabled and their carers, so this is also worth checking before you go.

Day trips

The Rough Guide to Accessible Britain can also provide inspiration. The guide is free to Blue Badge holders.

Accessible holidays

These organisations provide details of holiday accommodation and holidays that are suitable for people with disabilities and their carers:

More info

Page last reviewed: 15/01/2018
Next review due: 15/01/2021