About short breaks

Defining short breaks

A short break is any form of service or assistance which enables the carer(s) to have sufficient and regular periods away from their caring routines or responsibilities.

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Breaks from caring come in all shapes and sizes

The purpose of a short break is to support the caring relationship and promote the health and wellbeing of the carer, the supported person, and other family members affected by the caring situation.


What is a short break?

The term 'short break' covers a wide range of services and activities. Some people use different words such as respite, or breaks from caring. Breaks can:

A break could be for a few hours during the day, or for longer periods such as a few days or even a few weeks. 

Some carers prefer short breaks on a regular basis. For example, a few hours a week to attend a fitness class or meet a friend for a coffee. Others prefer an overnight break where they can have a longer time away from caring. 

This might mean the person with support needs having a break away from home so that the carer can have the house, and some time, to themselves!

In order to make this happen, this can include providing 'replacement care' as an alternative to the care the carer would usually give, so that they can have some time away

Sometimes the carer and the person they care for would like a break away together - with support if they need it - so that they can enjoy time together, away from the demands of their day to day routine. 

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Giving carers choice, flexibility and a personal approach leads to the best possible outcomes: with the needs of everyone carefully considered and balanced.

Different options

Carers and those they care for should be offered support - if they need it - to think about options for breaks and to plan ahead.

This can help them feel more confident about the service or support being provided and plan what they want to do to make the most of their break.

A diverse range of short breaks options should be available to make sure carers, and those they care for, have a choice.

This could include:

  • specialist services such as hospice care;
  • condition-specific services such as dementia friendly holidays;
  • community flats with care support;
  • residential accommodation with nursing or personal care support;
  • building-based day centres;
  • breaks in the home of another individual or family, sometimes called 'shared lives';
  • breaks provided through a care at home service;
  • a range of inclusive community-based activities and groups;
  • holiday breaks using mainstream or specialist holiday providers, with or without the carer;
  • specialist play schemes and after-school clubs;
  • befriending schemes;
  • peer support groups.

Other forms of breaks could include: 

  • employing a personal assistant to join the supported person on breaks, with or without the carer;
  • hiring or buying equipment that helps facilitate breaks for the carer, the supported person or both;
  • time flexible vouchers that can be exchanged for assistance from registered care providers/agencies;
  • membership of leisure facilities;
  • emergency breaks for when replacement care is needed at short notice, including ill health or in response to a crisis. These can be included as part of an emergency plan, produced in advance to reduce the stress of emergency care.