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Carers' breaks and respite care

Your carer's assessment may identify that you need a break from caring from time to time. Equally, the person you care for may also want to have a break without you. See Accessible day trips and activities for help planning their trip.

Replacement care and respite care

Replacement care is designed to replace the care that you, as a carer, would normally be giving the person you care for. It may be needed so you can look after your own health and wellbeing, and to take a break from caring. For example, it may be that regular replacement overnight care is needed so you can catch up on your own sleep.

In certain situations, respite (temporary) care may be provided by your local authority after your carer's assessment or after the person you care for has had an assessment. You can use the directory of local carers' services to find your nearest local carers' centre or respite service. Your local authority or local carers' centre can give you information about local support.

Carer's tip from Scope

"Some hospices provide respite care; we have found this very helpful. They offer high-level care, which means you can feel comfortable your family member is being cared for properly."

Breaks for carers

After your carer's assessment, you may agree with your local authority that you need a break as part of your support plan. If the local authority has agreed to fund the breaks in your care plan, you should be able to choose how you can get your break.

Using direct payments to get time off caring

After your assessment, if you are eligible for support, your local authority will develop a support plan with you. This will include a personal budget, which you can choose to have as a direct payment.

For example, you may choose to: 

  • hire a care worker through an agency so you can go on a shopping trip
  • use the direct payment to pay for a supported holiday for both you and the person you care for - the Short Breaks Network can provide more information on this

Alternatives to direct payments

You may also want to consider funding or getting a break from caring by:

Replacement care provided by the local authority

Instead of a direct payment, you could ask the local authority to arrange services for you so you can have a break. You can also use a direct payment to fund traditional forms of respite care, and you can pool your direct payments with other people's to fund services such as day centres.

Some local authorities provide vouchers (sometimes called respite grants, or carers' grants) that can be exchanged for services, such as those offered by care agencies or residential homes. You might be able to use vouchers to pay for extra costs associated with your holiday, including live-in care workers, short-stay residential care, or the cost of more homecare.

You might want to consider:

  • homecare services - these can either be day services that give you the chance to do an activity inside or outside the home, or night services that can help you get a proper night's sleep, or helpers coming to the home of the person you're caring for. Different types of help can be organised, including sitting with the person you care for and keeping them company, preparing meals, and helping them to get up, washed and dressed. The care workers who come to your home can also provide social activities, such as taking the person you care for to the cinema, pub or shopping.
  • residential or nursing care - this is where the person you're looking after goes for a short stay in a residential or nursing home. If you can, visit the care or nursing home beforehand so you can see what it's like. 
  • day care - this is where the person you're looking after goes to a day centre or takes part in activities away from home.

If the replacement care provided is essentially a homecare service for the person needing care and allows you to take a break, it should be considered a service provided to the cared-for person and should therefore be charged to them, not you as the carer. Find out more in Carer's assessment.

Benevolent funds or charity funding

You may be able to get help with the cost of going on holiday - either alone or with the person you care for - from a charity or benevolent fund. Your social worker, GP, health visitor or local carers' support group can give you more information on local benevolent funds and other possible sources of funding.

You might find help from the following:

  • Saga Respite for Carers Trust provides a limited number of free holidays each year for carers over the age of 50 and the people they look after.
  • 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 is a UK charity providing 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.

Paying for your own breaks

If after a carer's assessment the local authority decides it will not fund a break for you, you can still decide to pay for your own break from caring. How you go about this will depend on your budget and the care options available to you locally.

Bursaries and low-cost holidays

Some charities offer low-cost holidays or bursaries to families.

  • The national charity Diabetes UK offers support holidays for families and young people. Holidays are low cost and a bursary can be offered to families who can't afford the travel costs to the UK holiday site. Further information can be found on the Diabetes UK website or on 020 7424 1000 (ask for the care support team).
  • Turn2us, an independent charity, can help you find sources of financial support based on your particular needs and circumstances.
  • Saga, the organisation for people aged 50 and older, has a range of holidays and short breaks to suit carers, including group holidays, holidays for single travellers, special interest holidays, and cruises. Holidays are run throughout the year in the UK and abroad. Saga also offers free holidays for carers through the Saga Respite for Carers Trust.

Leisure discounts

Many local authorities offer leisure cards. These can help you pay for activities you might like to do when you get a break from caring.

They're often available to people claiming benefits such as Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Carer's Allowance and benefits for disabled people, students over 18 in full-time education, and people over 60.

The eligibility requirements vary between areas, but there's a good chance you'll qualify if you're a carer with a low income.

Local authorities might make a small annual charge for the card, from £1 up to around £15. You'll probably be asked for some proof of your entitlement, such as a statement of entitlement for Income Support or an official letter.

Discount leisure cards can give you discounts of between 10 and 50% on activities, services and entertainment. These range from sporting activities at local leisure centres to cinemas, theatres, libraries, museums, hairdressers and beauty salons.

Help with caring from friends and family

Friends and family can provide support for you and the person you care for, especially when you need a break from caring. However, they are not the same as paid professional care workers, and regular caring can place the same stresses on them as on you. They may also be unable or unwilling to commit to giving you a break when you need it.

Make sure anyone who takes over from you has all the information they need to look after the person you care for. This may include what they like to eat and at what time, as well as more complex information about the medicines they need to take.

Leave a clear list of contacts. These should include the doctor's number, those of nearby family members and friends, and your own number in case of emergencies. If you have an emergency plan, go through it with the people who will be providing replacement care.

If the person you care for needs specialist medical or nursing help while you're away, arrange this through their GP. This specialist help can include visits from a district nurse or from a community psychiatric nurse. There is no charge for this healthcare, but each NHS body decides what care it will provide.

Help with emergency planning

Thinking about what you would do in an emergency should be part of the discussion you have as part of your carer's assessment. The person who carries out your assessment should be able to help you with planning.

Carer's tip from Scope

"It might be a good idea to choose someone from your family to be the person's guardian in case of death. You should ensure that person is familiar, and keep them up-to-date with needs."

To create an emergency plan, you will need to note down details of:

  • the name, address and any other contact details of the person you look after
  • who you and the person you look after would like to be contacted in an emergency - this could be friends, family or professional people involved in the person's care
  • any medication the person is taking
  • any ongoing treatment they need

You can register with a carers emergency scheme in your area. If you do, a skilled worker trained to look at your individual situation may be able to help you make your emergency plans.

Who can help make an emergency plan?

Every carer who has an assessment should be asked about emergencies and offered help to plan for them.

The social worker involved in your carer's assessment should be able to help you with emergency planning.

Article provided by NHS Choices

See original on NHS Choices

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