1. Introduction

Caring for someone living in the community can be a full-time job, often done in conjunction with paid employment and other domestic responsibilities, so breaks are vital to the carer’s own wellbeing and to prevent, reduce or delay onset of their own health needs (see Promoting Wellbeing chapter and Prevention, Reduction or Delay of Development of Need chapter).

It can be difficult for carers to prioritise their own needs, when caring for a dependent other who either lives with them or who lives elsewhere (either on their own or in supported accommodation) but who still needs regular visits, support and companionship. Taking a break from caring, however, can also mean that the adult being cared for has an opportunity to enjoy new experiences, have a change of scene and routine and mix with other people.

2. Different Types of Breaks

There are different ways in which carers can take breaks. Some may be very short but regular, for example an hour or two each week, occasional full days, a one or two week holiday (the carer either goes away or stays at home with no caring responsibilities) or a combination or all of these.

3. Different Care Options whilst Taking a Break

There are a number of different care options available for the adult, whilst the carer has a break.

3.1 Arranging care themselves

Adults and carers can make private arrangements such as:

  • employing a paid care worker (directly or through an agency);
  • paying for short-term residential care;
  • arranging a holiday for the adult.

3.2 Family and friends

Some carers may be able to ask friends or family to care for the adult they are looking after in order to go on a short break or holiday, either by them going to stay at the other person’s house or family and friends going to stay with them or visit them regularly.

3.3 Support from organisations

The local authority’s advice and information service can provide information about a range of local services and organisations to support adults and carers living in the community, where carers are planning breaks of any type.

Organisations can provide services for either the carer or the adult, or provide information to help them decide what alternative care services to use.

3.4 Respite care via the local authority

The local authority can arrange ‘respite care’ for the adult so that the carer can have a break.

In order to receive respite care both the local authority needs to conduct assessments on both the adult and the carer, to ensure they are eligible (see Carer’s Assessment and Self-Assessment chapter).

Most carers can request a carer’s assessment from the local authority where the adult is ordinarily resident (see Ordinary Residence chapter). A carer’s assessment should consider:

  • their caring role;
  • how it affects their work and personal life, including wellbeing;
  • their physical, mental and emotional health;
  • how they feel about their caring role, including their choice about being a carer;
  • their work, study, training and leisure commitments and goals;
  • personal relationships;
  • their housing situation;
  • planning for emergencies.

If the local authority assesses that the carer is in need of support, this may be provided directly to the carer, to the adult or a combination of both.

Respite care can be provided through:

  • day care – where the adult attends a service or participates in activities away from home, enabling the carer to have a break;
  • day-sitting service – which enables the carer to go shopping, meet friends or have time to do other things they want to do;
  • night-sitting service –to care for the adult during the night, to enable the carer to rest and sleep throughout the night;
  • residential or nursing care – where the adult goes for a short stay in a residential or nursing home;
  • holidays – help and support for the carer and / or adult to go on holiday either together or separately;
  • direct payments – following assessment a person with a disability or ill health can receive payments so that they can arrange and pay for their own care and support services (see Direct Payments chapter).

3.4.1 Paying for respite care

The local authority where the adult is ordinarily resident may charge them for any respite care services provided. It can also request carers pay for services they receive. If it does charge, it must follow the Care and Support Statutory Guidance about how income / capital is taken into account. Carers should be told about this when their assessment is undertaken.

4. Costs of a Break

If a carer needs financial assistance in order to be able to take a break, either alone or with the adult, there may be some help they can receive.

They should raise it as part of their carer’s assessment to see if there is any financial help the local authority can provide.

There may be grants or schemes available locally to help carers with the cost of a holiday. The local information and advice service should provide information about such possibilities (see Information and Advice chapter).

5. Benefits

Payment of benefits can sometimes be affected if the carer has a break or they or the adult goes into hospital or residential care.

Up to date advice about carers, adults and Department of Work and Pensions benefits is available from: