Respite care and short breaks for carers

This information applies to England and Wales.

Respite care, also called short breaks for carers, is temporary care that lets you take a break from looking after a disabled adult or child. It does not affect your benefits.

Respite care is there to support your wellbeing and health, allowing you to care for a disabled person. You do not need to wait until you’re struggling.

Everyone deserves a break and having an assessment for respite care is a legal right.

Managing stress and your mental health

Respite care can last any length of time. Funding could be for one-off support or ongoing respite care.

Carers’ breaks and respite care (NHS)

If you’re caring for someone, you could also get Carer’s Allowance.

Carer’s Allowance

Your rights to respite care as a carer

You do not need to have an emergency to get respite care. It’s there to help you:

  • care for a disabled adult or child more effectively
  • do training or leisure activities by yourself
  • look after your own mental health and wellbeing
  • look after other children in your family
  • spend time with your partner and friends
  • do everyday tasks at home

Asking for respite care does not mean you cannot cope. It is a way to help you cope better.

Managing stress and your mental health


If you have caring responsibilities, you could receive respite care. You have a legal right to have an assessment. The process is the same if you care for a disabled adult or a disabled child.

The local authority assesses eligibility with a carer’s assessment.

Carer’s assessment

Another organisation or charity might have their own criteria. 

Respite grants or organisations

Types of respite care and short breaks

Respite care can be:

  • help at home during the day, evenings or at weekends (this can be known as home care or replacement care)
  • short stays in a care home (respite care centre)
  • support for the disabled person to take part in activities without you
  • care overnight, at home or somewhere else so that you can sleep
  • holidays for the disabled person and carer

Look at the Local Offer

Local authorities publish all the support services available in your local area. This is called the 'Local Offer’. Every local authority must have a Local Offer. It will be on their website, or you can contact them and ask for it. It covers education, health and social care services.

Local authorities must include respite care, usually called short break services. These include:

  • organised activities
  • residential care
  • overnight care

Contact your local authority to find your Local Offer (GOV.UK)

Funding for respite care and short breaks

Respite care and short breaks are normally funded by your local authority. But you can get funding from:

  • your local authority
  • grants
  • care organisations or charities

If you want, you can pay for care yourself.

Paying for care yourself

It can be an informal agreement you have with a family member or friend.

Family or friends providing respite care

Local authority-funded respite care

The local authority will assess the needs of a disabled person. A part of the assessment looks at respite care. This process is the same for adults and children. It is known as a needs assessment. 

Needs assessment

The local authority also assesses the needs of a carer. This can happen at the same time as a needs assessment or separately. It is known as a carer’s assessment. They can tell you about other support in your local area.

Carer’s assessment

If you’re disabled and have a primary health need, you could be eligible for NHS continuing healthcare (CHC). This is funding from the NHS to pay for the medical care and support you need.

NHS continuing healthcare (CHC)

Your local authority must give you care if their assessment shows that you need it

Your local authority does not have a policy that limits your care. They cannot refuse to provide a certain type of care or to limit the support you need.

For example, it would be unlawful for your council to say that because of their policy, they cannot give you:

  • more than 8 hours of care a week
  • overnight care

They also cannot tell you how to spend your time while the disabled person is receiving respite care.

Asking for respite care at a carer’s assessment

During your carer’s assessment, you can ask for the type of respite care that you want.

A carer’s assessment will look at:

  • how many hours of respite you need
  • how often you should get respite care
  • the type of respite care
  • where the funding is from

For example, you have 2 hours of respite care a week so that you go shopping or attend a course. A care agency worker comes to the disabled person’s home. The funding comes directly from the local authority.

You also get 12 hours of support every 2 months so the disabled person can do activities away from you. The funding is direct payments.


The funding for respite care can come directly from the local authority. This means they will organise the dates you receive respite care.

Alternatively, you can ask for a personal budget or direct payments. This means you get the money to pay for respite care. You have more flexibility, but it can be more work to organise the care yourself. This is because you become the employer.

Direct payments

Getting your care package

After a carer’s assessment, your local authority will send you a report. If you qualify for respite care, your care package will specify the:

  • type of respite care
  • funding (the type and the amount)

Respite grants or organisations

Most grants will not pay for things that you can get through your local authority. For example, if your local authority has a weekly support group, a grant might not fund this.

Find out what respite care you might get before applying for a grant.

Finding and applying for grants

Carer organisations or charities might offer respite care. These include:

Respite care holidays

Some organisations provide funding for respite holidays:

  • Family Fund can support families on a low income who have a disabled child.
  • Revitalise have subsidised respite holidays for disabled people and their carers.

Paying for care yourself

You can pay for respite care using your own money. This is your choice.

If you are using savings to pay for respite care, it will not be classed as deprivation of capital. Deprivation of capital is when you deliberately reduce your money, so you do not need to pay for things, like social care.

If you have applied for support from the local authority but have not received a respite care package, you can appeal your carer’s needs assessment.

If you do not get care or your support stops

If you are hiring a carer locally, rather than through an agency, you are the employer. There are organisations like People Plus that help people become an employer if they are wanting to employ a personal assistant or carer.

Ask your local authority for support, even if you are funding all the care.

Employing a personal assistant or carer

As an employer, you can get a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Find out which DBS check is right for your employee (GOV.UK)

You can hire a family member or friend. It is your choice if you do a DBS check.

Family or friends providing respite care

A family member or friend could support you informally by:

You can pay family or friends if you want.

You might need to check if you can pay friends or family if:

  • the care is funded by the local authority or another organisation and
  • they live with the disabled person

Managing stress and your mental health

Caring for a disabled person can be stressful. Respite or short breaks are to help you manage.

Managing mental health

Where to get urgent help for mental health (NHS)

What support is available

You should not wait until you’re in crisis to get support. Go to your GP and ask.

Managing stress as the parent of a disabled child

Health and wellbeing resources (Carers UK)

Some charities and organisations have support groups for carers:

If you move local authority

If you move to a new local authority, your respite care should not stop straight away. It will end when the new local authority assesses you.

Your respite care could be more or less. This will depend on your needs as a carer and the criteria of that local authority.

For example, the house you have moved into is more accessible for the disabled person. This could mean your caring responsibilities are less and you get less respite care.

Or your new local authority has different criteria for respite care and can offer you more hours of support.

If you do not get care or your support stops

If you are unhappy with an assessment, ask your local authority about their appeals process.

This is normally a formal, written complaint to your local authority. You can also contact your MP or an advocate for help.

Advocacy for social care

If a complaint does not work, you can:

Accessing public services, template complaint letters (Cerebra)

Free or affordable legal help (Citizens Advice)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 16/11/2023

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