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Respite Care

When you are taking care of somebody you also need to think about caring for yourself. Depending on the type and intensity of care needed, your own health and well-being can be compromised by looking after someone else. In most jobs you get paid holidays - you should try to take some time off from caring too!

You can get some respite from your caring role in a number of different ways:

  1. Residential respite: The Person you care for goes away to be looked after by someone else for a while – residential or nursing care or on holiday.
  2. Domiciliary care: Someone comes into your home and takes over care for a while (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, at a Day 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.

Recent legislation (Carers Equal Opportunities Act 2004) gives carers increased rights when their needs are being assessed. A carer's wish to work, undertake training or 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.


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.

Direct Payments

In this case, the Local Authority works out what services they think you may need and then, instead of arranging the services, 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 lunch time. Sue also needs to have a complete break. After assessment Sue gets direct payments to enable them to buy in appropriate help. Sue is able to employ Jenny her neighbour for an hour a day to prepare lunch for Daisy. Jenny also agrees to move in to look after Daisy for two weeks. Sue uses the direct payments to pay Jenny. This works well for everyone, and particularly for Daisy who knows and trusts Jenny.

Some voluntary organisations also provide respite services. Crossroads Care is a charity which has a network of local schemes providing respite in the home, using trained staff. Many Crossroads schemes do not charge although there is often a waiting list for their services.

A small number of the Carers' Centres that work in partnership with The Princess Royal Trust for Carers directly provide respite care - whether or not they provide this service they can give you information and support about what is available locally.


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

Some, such as Vitalise, 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 available in terms of more long-term care, take a look at our article on Permanent Care.