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Providing carers’ adult carers’ breaks

What good looks like

Not all of the messages below apply to every provision, but there are some general themes for features of good support and good provider approaches.

  • Clear information – about the range and variety of services and support. For each service, provide information about the type of setting and support, the duration and the cost. Carers need to know what to expect.
  • Breaks need to be easy to arrange – carers want to know times, costs, eligibility, availability, skills of staff, how to book and contact details.
  • Ensure quality – comply with CQC fundamental standards and the family and friends test. Sign up to Quality Matters or Making it Real. Involve carers and community members in checking your services. Get feedback from carers and people who use your services. Follow up with people who don’t return.
  • Co-production – involve carers in shaping services. What would people like? Be flexible about how you do this and really listen to what they say. Are carers involved in your board, your training, your recruitment?
  • Flexibility and variety – overnight breaks are valued, but so are regular breaks during the day. Carers often want to take a break with the person they care for, but not have to do all the caring tasks. Are your services inclusive? Can they respond to specific needs? Can they offer support to people from particular backgrounds and identities?
  • Business planning for continuity – have in place good plans in response to your own market research and market position statements. How do you fund and manage your contracts? Can you diversify your offer based on what’s needed?
  • Build on what works and do more of what you are good at – for example, good day services might be trusted and understand people well, some services may have skills supporting people with particular needs.
  • ‘Get to know me and the person I care for – get to know our family’ – if a carer is experiencing support for the first time, they will need a period to adjust while they get a feel for what works.
  • Skilled staff – carers don’t want to ‘pick up the pieces’ after a break that did not work well for the person they care for.
  • Get the basics right around reliability and communication – keep carers in touch and informed.
  • Measure impact – how do you know your service makes a difference?
  • Be part of the community. Breaks can help people to stay connected to the things they enjoy, reducing loneliness and can help build new links both for the carer and the person they care for.
  • Make the break enjoyable.
  • Use technology to complement support: Technology can offer peace of mind, but be aware that carers may not feel like they are having a break if they are in constant contact with the person they care for.

Consistency of relationships – and therefore continuity of staff – is important to build trust.

Carers’ Breaks Reference Group discussion, February 2019

Workforce development and skills

Skills for Care and Skills for Health have set out key standards and requirements for staff working in care settings. For those working in breaks services or services that offer breaks as part of wider provision, particular approaches and skills may be needed.

The episodic nature of breaks means that communication is absolutely key – so staff who do not see someone every day can quickly adopt the right approach and understand how someone wants to be supported.

Carers may need reassurance to feel able to use a breaks service or trust someone in their home. Listening to carers to value and understand their approach can ensure continuity of support. Kindness is highly valued. Staff need to be confident so as not to be always calling on the carer – but need to be able to make a judgement call as to when it is right to do so.

Specific skills and knowledge may be needed to ensure appropriate support for people with particular needs or conditions such as dementia or mental health needs.

Providers will need to ensure their training addresses the range of needs of potential users of their services.

Providers can usefully develop collaborative workforce plans and liaise with other providers to make training more affordable. Skills sharing may be a useful approach. Funding may be available for local training consortia. Can this training be made available to personal assistants too? Linking with the statutory sector can mean access to more varied and affordable training. What does the local mental health trust offer? Does the local authority or NHS have training on autism, for example, or can shadowing be offered? 

Involving carers in training delivery is an excellent way of raising awareness and fostering good relationships. Training delivered by the local carers organisation may provide invaluable insights.

More innovative approaches will pull on a wider local business workforce or might seek a wider range of skill sets and backgrounds. Shared Lives arrangements are delivered by community members from all walks of life. Breaks that are based on access to shared activities, such as My Time, pull on a wider local business workforce engaged in the scheme or might seek to attract people, perhaps volunteers, with particular interests – a football fan, a tennis player, a theatre goer.

Look at offering a choice of breaks. Be flexible about what is possible, including when the break can be arranged.

Carers’ Breaks Reference Group discussion, February 2019

Practice examples