Carers' breaks and respite care
Respite care means taking a break from caring, while the person you care for is looked after by someone else.
It lets you take time out to look after yourself and helps stop you becoming exhausted and run down.
There are lots of respite care options. They range from getting a volunteer to sit with the person you look after for a few hours, to a short stay in a care home so you can go on holiday.
The person you look after could go to a day care centre. Or, a paid carer could visit them at their home to look after them.
Your local council or local carers' centre can give you information about local support.
First step – getting assessed
Local councils will only fund respite care for people that they have assessed as needing it.
So if you want the council to pay for respite care for either yourself as a carer or the person you look after, it's important that you both have an assessment.
Carer's should have a carer's assessment.
The person you're looking after should have a needs assessment.
Even if they don't want council funding, it's still useful for the person you look after to have a needs assessment, as it will say which type of respite care is most suitable.
Different types of respite care
The main types of respite care are:
- day care centres
- homecare from a paid carer
- a short stay in a care home
- getting friends and family to help
- respite holidays
- sitting services
Day care centres
Day care centres offer a chance for people who find it difficult to get out and about to socialise, make friends and take part in activities.
For example, day care centres might offer tea dances, singing, games and arts and crafts. Some offer hairdressing, foot care and assisted bathing.
Transport is often provided, but there may be a charge.
To qualify for council-funded day care centre visits, the person you look after will need to have had a needs assessment.
Day care centres are usually run by councils or local charities.
To find out what's available in your area contact:
- your local council – find your local authority adult social care services (England only)
- charities such as Re-engage (for people aged over 75) or Age UK: day centres
Help at home from a paid carer
If you care for someone and need more time for yourself, you can arrange help at home from a paid carer for them. This is also called homecare.
It might be regular (for example, one day a week so that you can work, study or have a day off) or for a short period, such as a week, so you can take a holiday.
If the person you care for needs 24-hour supervision, you can arrange live-in care.
To qualify for council-funded homecare, the person you look after will need to have had a needs assessment.
- ask your local council's adult social care department for information on homecare agencies in your area. They may have a directory of homecare agencies on their website. Find your local authority adult social care services (England only)
- search the NHS website for local homecare services and national homecare providers
- you can find local homecare on the Homecare Association website for a list of approved homecare agencies in your area
- check Carers Trust: paid help at home or Age UK: home help to see the support they offer
A short stay in a care home
Some care homes offer short-term respite care.
It can be difficult to get respite space at short notice, but some care homes take advance bookings which can help you to plan ahead, for example if you want to book a holiday.
Search the NHS website for:
Getting friends and family to help
Friends and family might temporarily move into the house of the person you care for. Or, they could invite the person you care for to stay with them for a while.
Respite holidays allow carers and people with illnesses or disabilities to take a break from everyday life.
- MindforYou offers supported holidays in the UK for people who are living with dementia and their carers to enjoy together
- some charities, such as Revitalise, offer subsidised respite holidays for disabled people and their carers
- Family Fund has grants towards the cost of holidays for families on a low income who are caring for a child with a disability or serious illness
- Family Holiday Charity has breaks at holiday sites, or grants to help with the cost of a holiday, for low-income families. You need to be referred by your social worker, GP or health visitor, or by a charity or other welfare agent
Some charities and carers' organisations offer sitting services, where a trained volunteer keeps the person you care for company for a while, usually a few hours at a time.
This type of sitting service is often free, or there may be a small charge.
These organisations offer sitting services. Find out if they are available in your area:
- Carers Trust: carer services near you
- Age UK: friendship services
- Royal Voluntary Society (RVS): supporting people
- Independent Age: community services
Emergency respite care
Think about who you could contact in an emergency if you couldn't reach the person needing care, for example, due to an accident or sudden illness.
This might be another relative, friend or neighbour who could step in for a few hours while proper arrangements are made.
Make sure they:
- have door keys or know the code to a key safe
- know the type of care the person you look after will need – this may be as simple as sitting and chatting with them, making a meal for them or helping them take their medicines
Write some notes about what kind of care the person you look after needs and leave them in a prominent place to help anyone who steps in to help at a moment's notice.
These notes could include essential information on medicines, and any dos and don'ts for the substitute carer to be aware of.
Paying for respite care
According to the UK care guide, respite care costs on average £700 to £800 a week.
It can be as much as £1,500 a week, for emergency respite care, live-in care, or staying in a care home.
There are 2 main ways of getting help with the costs of respite care:
- from the council
- from a charity
Or you can pay for it yourself.
From the council
If you or the person you care for qualifies for respite care, the council will do a financial assessment to work out if it will pay towards it.
If you or the person you care for qualifies for council-funded respite care, you can ask the council to arrange it for you, or you can do it yourself through a personal budget or direct payment.
From a charity
See Carers Trust: grants and discounts for information about grants to carers who need respite.
Search for grants on the Turn2us website to find grants for people who need respite care but can't afford it.
Paying for it yourself
If the person you care for has to pay for their own respite care, they might be able to raise money towards this from:
- income from pensions, work, investments or property
- benefits, such as Attendance Allowance
Page last reviewed: 25 November 2022
Next review due: 25 November 2025