Respite care

Being a carer can be hard work and you might need to take a break sometimes. Respite can mean different things to different carers, it can mean:
  • short term residential care – where the person you care for goes to stay in a care home or other residential setting for a short time
  • getting more paid help at home – this could be via paid workers helping with care or getting more help with tasks around the home
  • getting someone to keep the person you care for company whilst you go out - sitting and befriending services
  • doing something you enjoy 
  • the person you care for taking part in activities outside the home 
  • taking a holiday with or without the person you care for
Make sure you ask for a carer’s assessment as it looks at the support you need to carry on caring – this could include regular respite and breaks.  

Short term residential care

The person you care for may be able to go for a short stay in a care home to give you a break. There are a wide range of care homes that offer support such as personal care and nursing.
You can arrange this yourself but your local council may be able to help.  Your local carer service may also be able to advise you about the options near where you live. 
Find out more about paying for respite care.

Paid help at home 

Getting more help at home may give you a chance to take a break from caring.  You could get paid care workers to help at home during the day, so you can do other activities; or overnight, so that you can get some sleep. They could help with preparing meals, getting the person you care for washed and dressed, or getting the person you care for out and about.
In England and Wales Carers Trust works with many quality assured partner services who provide care in the home where a paid, trained carer support worker takes over the caring role. The needs of both the carer and the person they care for are assessed and regularly reviewed to ensure the service is tailored to the needs of them both. This is available to people of all ages, and with a range of disabilities and health conditions. This is a paid service. Find your local service. There are also other companies that supply paid care workers.
Make sure you get the right support for you and the person you care for. See our buying care guide for more help about choosing the right care.
Find out about getting more help at home from your local council or local carer service. They will also be able to advice you about ways to pay for this help.
You could also get help at home for tasks that you might struggle to find time for, such as cleaning and gardening. Some charities have local schemes that may be able to help; Age UK as some local cleaning services and have lists of approved local companies. Ask your local carer service what is available in your area or you could contact your local council to see if they have a list of approved tradesmen. Alternatively, you can arrange this yourself privately. See if anyone you know has a gardener or cleaner that they would recommend.

Sitting and befriending services

Some local carer services and charities offer a sitting or befriending service where a fully trained person stays with the person you care for whilst you go out:
  • Many local Age UKs have befriending and sitting services.
  • Age UK also have a telephone befriending scheme called Call in time.
  • Contact other local charities, particularly those that support people with specific conditions. 
Contact your local carer service to see what is available near you. There may be a charge for these sitting and befriending services.
You could also ask your friends and family if they could help look after the person you care for whilst you go out.

Take part in leisure activities and meet other people

Make sure you make time to do the activities you like. Some local councils and local carer services have discount cards just for carers. Try joining to see what’s available to you. You may also be able to get money off if you have a low income or claim benefits.
Local carer services often have social activities where you can go and meet other carers. You may be able to take the person you care for with you.
Keeping in touch with other people is a great way to take a break. If it is difficult to get out to meet friends perhaps they could visit you or even meet up with you online. Our online communities are also a great way to meet other carers and take a break. Visit Babble (for young carers under 18), Matter (for cares aged 16 to 25 ) or Carers Space (for adult carers aged over 18).

Getting the person you care for involved in other activities

You might be able to take a break if the person you care for takes part in an activity outside the home. This might be going to day care or attending school.
If possible, make sure that the person you care for carries on with the activities they have always done, such as going to church or going to clubs and groups.
There may be new groups or activities that the person you care for may be able to take part in.  There are lots of support groups for different conditions and disabilities. For example, there are many “Singing for the brain” groups for people with dementia and their carers.  The person you care for may be able to go to these groups without you.  Even if you go too, it is a chance for you to talk to other carers and perhaps have a bit of time to have a quiet cup of tea.
Contact your local carer service to see what is available near where you live.

Have a holiday

Holidays are a good way to recharge your batteries, with or without the person you care for.  There are many options available, some of which are listed below. You should also contact your local carer services to see what other options might be available locally.
  • The Family Fund can provide grants towards the cost of holidays for families on a low income who are caring for a child with a severe disability.
  • The 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.
  • The Children's Country Holiday Fund provides respite breaks in the countryside for young carers aged 6 to 16 and disadvantaged children and young people.
  • The Kiloran Trust has a house in west London for carers to stay in with the person they care for.
  • The Family Holiday Association helps families who have not had a holiday for 4 years.
  • Ogilvie Charities: funds breaks for carers
  • Revitalise respite holidays for disabled people and carers. 
  • Saga Respite for carers (trust) offers a limited number of free holidays each year for carers over the age of 50 and the people they look after.

How to pay for respite

How you pay for respite depends on the type of respite you need and your personal circumstances.  Get in touch with your local carer service or your local council for advice about paying for respite.
Carers Trust offers some grants to carers who need respite. You can apply through a local Carers Trust service. They can explain everything you need to know about who qualifies and help you apply. They may also be able to let you know about other ways to pay for respite.
Ask your local council for a carer’s assessment which can consider respite care. If you get direct payments as a result of your carer’s assessment you may be able to use these to pay for respite care. Your local council will also be able to assess the person you care for. They may qualify for direct payments so that they can arrange and pay for their own respite care.
Rules about paying for respite care for children are different. Get in touch with Contact a Family for more information.
See our buying in care guide if you want to buy respite care at home.
There is more information on paying for carers' breaks and respite care on NHS Choices.
The Respite Association may also be able to help as it provides funding towards the cost of respite breaks.

Respite and Carer’s Allowance

You can still get Carer’s Allowance if you take a break. Visit if your circumstances change on the website for more information.

Caring for someone with mental health problems

If you care for someone with mental health problems you may find it hard to get respite care. Our Making Respite Real in Mental Health is a leaflet to help carers find suitable respite care.