Short breaks

For carers a regular break can be a necessity due to the long hours involved in the caring role, and because caring itself can be a very stressful. This information page answers some of your questions.

Are you a family carer reaching ‘burnout’ or crisis point?

Do you need to know how to get a break from caring?

Why you need a break

Everyone benefits from taking a break – a chance to recharge our batteries and have some time to relax.  For carers a regular break can be a necessity due to the long hours involved in the caring role, and because caring itself can be a very stressful.  As such, it’s very important that 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, see friends, to exercise, take part in hobbies or even just do 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 your need 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 states that care and support services should promote wellbeing for you as well as your relative, and if this requires short break services then those needs must be met. The same rights apply in Wales.
  • 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: Local Offer Guide (Council For Disabled Children).

To read more about your rights to short breaks please see Know your rights – 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 support from personal assistants, 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
  • Flexible options – you can 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.

What happens if your relative is excluded from local short breaks services because of their challenging behaviour?

This is a difficult situation. Many carers often worry that they will receive a call to come and pick up their relative from short breaks/respite. Once excluded from one setting, it can become a cycle of having to get used to a new environment every couple of months, struggling to settle and an increase in challenging behaviour. 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.

Create your own support

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 the Skills for Care website.

For information regarding grants to fund a short break, contact Family Fund.

Actions to reinstate short breaks

There are also 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 specified need in your Carer’s Assessment review or in your relative’s Education, Health and Care Plan (children/young people) or Care and Support Plan reviews. This means that your Local Authority must provide services to meet this need.
  • Carers’ centres may also be able to provide support if you are not receiving a sufficient break. You can find your local carers’ centre here: Carer services near you – Carers Trust
  • 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 (call 0300 666 1026 or email You can also get in touch with the Disability Law Service.


This page provides useful information if you are you unhappy with the care of your relative, including how to raise a concern and what to do if you are not happy with the outcome of the complaint.