46 % of unpaid carers unable to take a break in the last five years

14 June 2019

From SCIE, Carers UK and the Department of Health and Social Care

Commissioners and providers need to be more flexible and innovative in their approaches to respite and carers’ breaks

New guidance from the Social Care Institute for Excellence, in partnership with Carers UK, outlines how health and social care commissioners and providers can expand and improve regular breaks for families and friends who care for other adults.

Research by Carers UK shows 46% of unpaid carers were unable to get a break in the last five years, even though they wanted one. 'Carers’ breaks: guidance for commissioners and providers' calls for a whole-family approach to ensure that breaks are accessible, personalised and enjoyable for both the carer – and the person they care for.

Evidence and current practice indicate that there needs to be a wider choice of breaks available to better suit the varying needs of unpaid carers. Health and social care commissioners have a role to play in shaping the market, and providers should take a more innovative approach to develop a wide range of breaks, available at different times to suit carers. That may include residential respite, sitting services, through to holidays and support for carers and their families to participate in activities together

The guidance provides practice examples of innovative breaks that are highly valued by carers and families. Some draw on community assets and local business; others use technology to support breaks. Coproducing plans and services with carers and the people they care for is seen as a key success factor.

Accompanying films

The guidance is accompanied by a series of films providing advice, information and reassurance to carers. Produced by Carers UK, the films feature carers sharing their experiences and tips, explaining why breaks are essential and how to get advice and support.

Commissioners and providers are invited to join a free webinar on the issue in July.

Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage said:

As a society we can't value the support carers provide for their loved ones highly enough. But we must not take their kindness for granted, and we must ensure their wellbeing is protected. Regular breaks are so essential and support carers to keep providing care, but we know that access and quality can be uneven. This guidance is part of our Carers Action Plan to improve the lives of carers and provides a clear framework, advice and examples of innovative practice for those who commission and run respite services. This will lead to tangible benefits for families and friends who provide or receive care, and complements our work through the Long Term Plan for the NHS to better identify and support carers across England.

Dame Philippa Russell who chaired the Reference Group which supported the development of the guidance, said:

Too many carers struggle to get a break that works for them and the person they support. Lack of information about rights and options, guilt, concerns about quality, and inflexible options can often get in the way. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This new guidance – plus the accompanying advice for carers – shows how it is possible to deliver accessible, enjoyable breaks for carers, their families and friends.

As well as a summary of evidence, policy and legal issues, the guidance includes almost 30 examples of how commissioners and providers are delivering carers’ breaks.

Media contacts

SCIE press contact: James Anthony | Email: james.anthony@scie.org.uk | Tel: 020 7766 7354 | Mob: 07768330148 |

Carers UK press contact: Christine Casely | Email: christine.casely@carersuk.org | Tel: 020 7378 4937 | 

DHSC press contact: Lauren Martens | Email: lauren.martens@dhsc.gov.uk | Tel: 020 7210 6251

Notes to editors

The Social Care Institute for Excellence improves the lives of people of all ages by co-producing, sharing, and supporting the use of the best available knowledge and evidence about what works in practice.

Carers UK. Looking after someone can be tough, but you’re not on your own. Carers UK is here to listen, to give you expert information and advice that’s tailored to your situation, to champion your rights and support you in finding new ways to manage at home, at work, or wherever you are. Carers UK is here to make life better for carers.

About the statistics

Statistics come from a Carers UK survey completed by 1,041 carers in England between 18th December 2018 and 7th January 2019. 85% of carers do not feel they had enough of a break from their caring role over the last 5 years. This includes the 46% who did not get a break at all (but wanted one) and 39% who got a break but would have wanted more. Compared to the carer population as a whole, respondents to this survey were more likely to be female and caring for a high number of hours every week.

Practice examples

The guidance includes almost 30 examples of how commissioners and providers are delivering carers’ breaks. Examples include:

My time – managed by Liverpool Carers Centre, Local Solutions

My time – managed by Liverpool Carers Centre, Local Solutions: 30 hotels and 32 other organisations provide offers to carers including overnight stays in hotels, access to restaurants, theatres, universities, leisure and tourism, football clubs, watersports centre and Aintree Racecourse.

Hampshire County Council and PA Consulting

Hampshire County Council and PA Consulting: Telecare services include environmental monitoring devices for the person‘s home (e.g. to identify gas leaks or fires), devices to detect whether the person has fallen or is experiencing an epileptic fit, and other communication aids to help carers keep in touch easily with the person they care for, either directly or via a monitoring centre.

Family Carers prescriptions - Carers Trust Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Norfolk (Carers Trust CPN):

Family Carers prescriptions - Carers Trust Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Norfolk (Carers Trust CPN): A Family Carers’ Prescription gives carers access to a specialist worker at Carers Trust CPN who supports the carer to design a short break that works for the carer and they also provide support for this break to happen. Carers access the ‘prescription’ through their local health professional, including GPs. This service was commissioned to prevent carer breakdown based on evidence that this was the biggest cause of avoidable hospital admissions. The estimated saving through avoided hospital and residential admissions was £1.7 million in 2018/19.

GP Carer Break Personal Budget - Surrey County Council, Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group and voluntary sector, including Surrey Independent Living Council

GP Carer Break Personal Budget - Surrey County Council, Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group and voluntary sector, including Surrey Independent Living Council: Across Surrey, GPs can refer carers for a GP Carer Break. This is a one-off payment that allows carers to have some time away from their caring role. GP Carers Breaks are prescribed based on health needs of the carer at the discretion of the doctor.

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