FAQ: Short breaks

FAQ: "I'm reaching crisis point and need a break - what can I do?"

A:Holidays rejuvenate us all - they give us a chance to recharge our batteries and have some well-deserved time to relax. For carers a regular break can be necessary due to the extensive hours involved in the caring role, and because caring itself can be very stressful. As such, it's very important you as a carer get a break if you need one. Many carers often wait until 'crisis point' before accessing short breaks, however accessing short breaks earlier will hopefully prevent you ever reaching crisis point at all. They can enable you to spend more quality time with your other children, to take part in hobbies or to carry out household tasks. Meanwhile your relative can also meet new people and take part in new activities with the support they need.

Your rights on short breaks

  • As a family carer you have a right to be assessed for short breaks as part of your carer's assessment, and if you meet the relevant criteria you have a right to access those short breaks. In England, the Care Act has been written with the vision that care and support services should promote wellbeing for you and your relative, and if this requires short break services then those needs must be met. The same rights apply in Wales but from the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.
  • Local Authorities must provide a short breaks service, and must publish what services are available as part of their Local Offer. You can find your Local Offer here

To read more about your rights to short breaks please see Mencap: Your rights on Short Breaks

Types of short breaks

Your Local Authority should be able to offer you a choice of different types of short breaks:

  • Day opportunities - can include individual services such as childminding/sitting services and befriending schemes. Can also include group services such as after-school clubs, holiday schemes and adult day services.
  • Residential short breaks - overnight breaks may be helpful for families who might need a longer break, or need to catch up on some sleep. This may involve your relative staying overnight at a residential home or with a short breaks foster carer. Alternatively if your relative finds leaving home distressing, another means of getting a break could involve your Local Authority funding and implementing replacement care in the home overnight, while you stay in a hotel.
  • Breaks for siblings - local charities and organisations may run clubs and breaks for siblings in your local area. Information about local clubs for siblings can be found on the Sibs website.
  • Flexible options - you can also use direct payments to plan and organise your own short breaks. This can include paying personal assistants to take your relative on days out (alone or with the rest of the family), or to care for your relative at home.

FAQ: "My relative has been excluded from local short breaks services because of his/her challenging behaviour - what else can I do?"

A:This is a difficult situation. Many carers often worry that they will receive a call to come and pick up their child in the middle of the night. And once excluded from one setting, it can become a cycle of having to get used to a new environment every couple of months. This can make it hard for your relative to settle, increasing the incidence of challenging behaviour. Once excluded from local services, families can also end up only being offered services that are miles away, and are left with no real choice of what service they receive.

One solution may be to use your personal budget to hire a personal assistant/support worker to take out your relative for activities or get support at home. For more information regarding hiring personal assistants visit the Personal Assistants Network or Skills for Care. For information regarding grants to fund a short break, contact Family Fund.

There are several other routes you can take if faced with this situation:

  • You can make a formal complaint about lack of services in your local area, and also campaign to get services that are currently missing from your local offer commissioned.
  • You can ask that short break care is made a need in your Carer's Assessment review or in your relative's Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan/Care and Support Plan review. This means your local authority must provide services to meet this need.
  • Carers' centres may be able to provide support if you are not receiving a sufficient break. You can find your local carers' centre here.
  • Lastly, you can also seek legal advice from a solicitor that specialises in social care law. You may be able to do this on behalf of your relative using legal aid. The CBF Family Support Service can tell you more about this. To get in touch call 0300 666 0126 or email You can also get in touch with the Disability Law Service.

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