Respite care

Taking a Break

There are a number of ways that you can take a break from your caring role. Some are suggested below, but you should not be limited by these as you can talk over your situation with a social worker or care manager and suggest other ways that might suit you better:

1. Residential respite: the person you care for is looked after by someone else for a while, either in residential or nursing care, or on holiday.
2. Domiciliary care: someone comes into your home and takes over care for a while (for a few hours or sometimes overnight) so you can go out or have some time to yourself.
3. You can sometimes get a break when the person you care for is involved in other activities, for instance at school or at a day care centre.

Assessment of needs by the Local Authority

The first step is usually to approach the Local Authority to ask for an assessment for the person you care for – and for you as his/her carer.

The Local Authority social worker doing the assessments will consider the needs of the person you care for, and your needs as their carer, and consider what services they may be able to provide (bearing in mind local priorities and availability of services).

They will also do a financial assessment under their Charging Policy which means that you (or – more usually – the person you care for) may be charged for the services according to means.

For example:

David cares for his son Michael. The Local Authority assessment identifies the need for Michael to spend some time with people his own age – and also for David to have some regular time off and a good night's sleep. The assessor recommends that Michael should attend a day centre for 3 days a week and go to a residential unit 4 times a year.

Under the Carers Equal Opportunities Act 2004 carers have a number of rights when their needs are being assessed. A carer's wish to work, undertake training or pursue leisure activities should be taken into account as part of a Carers' Assessment. Make sure that the person doing the assessment understands what sort of help you need to enable you to have some life of your own.

Personalised budgets

Local Authorities are now being encouraged to provide individual budgets for people with care needs and for carers. This means that you should be offered choice in the way that services are provided, and may be able to use the funding to organise services yourself. There are some examples of how this might work below.

Direct Payments

In this case, the Local Authority works out what services they think you may need and then, instead of arranging the services directly, gives you (or the person you care for) the money to buy the service directly from an appropriate agency or person. You could then use the money to employ somebody directly yourself if you wish. See the Department of Health website for more details.

For example:

Sue looks after her mother Daisy and also has a part time job. She can leave Daisy for a few hours on her own, but needs to arrange for someone to come in at lunchtime. Sue also needs to have a complete break. After assessment of their situation, Daisy gets direct payments to enable them to buy in appropriate help. In this way, Sue is able to employ Jenny her neighbour on her mother’s behalf for an hour a day to prepare lunch. Jenny also agrees to move in to look after Daisy for two weeks. Sue helps her mother use the direct payments to pay Jenny. This works well for everyone, and particularly for Daisy who knows and trusts Jenny.

Network Partners providing respite care

Among the things that Carers Trust Network partners, independently managed local services for carers, deliver is emotional and practical support for carers — including providing care in the home to enable carers to take a break.

Crossroads Care schemes provide respite in the home, using trained staff.

A small number of carers' centres directly provide respite care. If they do not provide this service they can give you information and support about what is available locally. 


Instead of organising services directly, Local Authorities are now able to give people vouchers which they can redeem with local services they choose.

For example:

Jean looks after her husband Geoff (who has dementia) 24 hours a day. They are allocated eight hours a week of respite care. Instead of arranging this with Care Watch (a local agency), the Local Authority gives Jean vouchers for 32 hours a month of care which she can redeem flexibly with whatever agency she likes at whatever time is best for her.


There are a number of organisations that provide opportunities for children with special needs or people with disabilities to go on holiday with the appropriate support provided.

Some, such as Revitalise, provide special weeks for carers to go with the person they care for. A change of scene can be very therapeutic if there is appropriate support available to help you to enjoy it.

Forresters is Rethink’s respite hotel. They provide 24 hour mental health support in a hotel setting to give guests the best possible holiday to aid their recovery and provide their carers with the peace of mind to have a complete break without worry. Visit the Forresters website.

For further information on your options in terms of more long-term care, take a look at our article on Permanent Care.

Carers of People with Mental Health problems

Carers of people with mental health problems have often struggled to access respite care when they are caring for someone under secondary mental health services. Carers, service users and professionals are often confused about how to access respite and how it can be used for those with mental health problems. Carers Trust has developed a leaflet for all three groups to make respite real in mental health.

Did you know that Carers Trust provides respite services? Find out more about our Crossroads Care schemes.

Still can't find what you're looking for? Why not post a message on one of our discussion boards or join our online chat room where you can meet, and possibly pick up tips and advice from, experienced family carers in similar situations to yours.

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