Respite Care Fact Sheet

This fact sheet contains information about respite care, which can also be known as convalescence or intermediate/rehabilitation care.

Who might be in need of respite care

Respite care can be for someone who is:-

  • caring for a friend or relative and needs to arrange to take regular breaks or a holiday
  • living independently but may need temporary care whilst recovering from an illness or operation
  • living independently but is looking to ease them-self gradually into residential care
  • looked after by a carer but would like a holiday, either with or without their carer.

Types of respite care

The range of services that form respite care can vary across the country, and also according to individual needs. A carer may want a few hours of respite, for example, to go shopping or relax or it might be that the person being cared for would like a holiday or time away from their carer.

Care at home

Arranging for a friend or relative to stay while a carer is away is often the simplest and most comforting method, as the carer is known by the person requiring support. If this is not possible, other options for care at home include:-

  • home helps
  • home adaptations
  • meals on wheels
  • a temporary live-in carer.

For further information about care at home options, including a local search facility, visit the NHS choices social care website.

Day care

Regular day care can be beneficial for both the carer and the person for whom they are caring. One way of doing this is via a day care centre, as these provide carers with a break, whilst offering social contact and stimulating activities for the person attending the centre.  Day care can include:-

  • weekend, after school and holiday schemes for children
  • social activities
  • meals
  • transportation
  • medical help.

Further information about finding day care services and a searchable government directory for local services is available on the NHS choices website.

Convalescent care

Convalescent homes can provide practical support to help facilitate recovery following surgery, a long illness, sudden trauma (either medical or emotional) or offer a break to anybody suffering from a long term/life-limiting illness.

The NHS does offer short-term care to help people recover from an injury, illness or operation however this type of care can be difficult to access. Whilst most hospitals do offer rehabilitation programmes, (often known as intermediate care) these resources are often limited and eligibility criteria can be stringent. See below under NHS funded intermediate care for further information.

When looking for a convalescent home one of the main things to consider is location. if you are unable to travel far for medical reasons it will need to be close to home. If you have no travel impediments you could consider something further away. Travelling could add more of a holiday flavour to your convalescent stay.

You will also have to consider the type of care you are looking for. Requirements could include:-

  • nursing care
  • personal care
  • physiotherapy
  • speech therapy
  • occupational therapy (this covers physical, psychological, social and environmental needs)
  • spiritual requirements
  • disabled access.

If your profession has a benevolent society or if you are a member of a Friendly Society, they may own or be willing to fund your stay in a convalescent home.

We have lists of homes offering convalescent care, contact us if you would like an up-to-date list of homes that fit your specific requirements.

You can contact us on our general enquiry line: 0808 168 2233, you can ask us a question via our online enquiry service or email us on:

Residential respite care

You might choose a care home for your respite care. They are particularly useful if you are planning a holiday or are needing to spend time convalescing following an illness or surgery.

Many care homes, particularly those in the independent sector, are able to provide extremely flexible respite care packages. These range from a single overnight stay to a stay lasting a few weeks.

When choosing a care home it is important to consider whether your requirements are for nursing care, personal care or both. Do bear in mind that some care homes have a minimum age limit, usually 65.

Residential or nursing care

Residential care offers food, board and help with washing, dressing and going to the toilet. A district nurse or other medical professional will visit a residential care home regularly.

Residents in nursing care will have recognisable nursing needs that require the attention of qualified medical staff. They will be monitored around the clock by trained nurses and medical professionals.

For further information on residential short breaks and respite care for younger  people,  visit the Scope website.

For further guidance on how to find a care home, including some useful fact sheets, visit the Age UK website.

Funding respite care

Care and support services are not free to everyone. Many people have to pay something towards respite care and some will have to pay for all of it. Possibilities for funding include:-

  • self-funding
  • local authority funding
  • NHS funding
  • financial support from a charity.

If a combination of personal and nursing care is required it is possible for respite care to be funded by both the local authority and the NHS.


If you are paying for your own respite care you can choose the respite care package/home that suits you. However it is always advisable to arrange a professional assessment of your care needs to ensure that the care you choose is appropriate. Contact your local social services department in order to arrange for an assessment.

Local authority funding

To determine eligibility for local authority funding you will need to arrange an assessment (see below for further details) and undergo a financial means test.  Most local authorities operate a discretionary policy in terms of paying for respite care, but you will need to check with your own local authority to find out what their rules are and how they will apply to you.

You can search for the contact details and website for your local council by entering your postcode into the local authority directory website.

Please note, local authorities cannot refuse to provide a service on the grounds of cost. However, if there is more than one option available they are able to choose the most cost-effective one. This may mean that choices are more limited for local authority-funded care.

NHS funding – Registered nursing care contribution (RNCC)

The RNCC is a tax-free, non-means tested benefit, paid by the NHS to cover nursing or medical care. It is paid whether you are self-funding your care or your local authority is paying for it. In order to qualify for this contribution to your care you must:-

  • need nursing care; and
  • stay in a care home or residential home that can provide nursing care.

Please note, the actual amount of RNCC paid depends on where you live in the UK. For further information on RNCC, visit the NHS choices website.

NHS-funded intermediate care

This type of care can also be known as convalescent or rehabilitation care. This is short-term care that is intended to help people to recover from an injury, illness or operation. This can involve care in your own home or a care home.

Services arranged as  part of an intermediate care package are free for up to six weeks. You can find out more about intermediate care by talking to your GP, practice nurse or social worker.

Age UK have a number of fact sheets about NHS funding for respite care on the health and well-being section of their website.

Care assessments

Some local authorities provide respite care services based on a carer’s assessment, whilst others will assess the needs of the person who is receiving the care. Therefore, it is advisable for both the carer and the recipient of care to be assessed.

Care recipient

Local authorities have a duty to assess anybody who may be in need of community care and the assessors are ordinarily a combination of a social worker and other healthcare professionals, such as GPs and nurses.

It is also usual for the carer to be present at the assessment, as their input can best highlight the person’s individual situation and needs. To request an assessment simply contact your local social services department.


If you are a carer you can contact your local authority’s social services department and request a carer’s assessment. The person for whom you are caring does not have to be accessing community care services in order for you to request this assessment.

 The NHS Choices website has a carers self-assessment tool. This tool can help carers to assess their own situation and provides clear information on where to get more advice, help or support.

Financial assistance for holidays and respite care

If you are taking a holiday, either by yourself or with the person you care for, you may be able to get help towards the cost from a charity.

Reuben’s Retreat provides a retreat for families who have suffered the bereavement of a child or have a child suffering from a life limiting or life threatening illness. For further information, visit their website.

The ACT foundation provides financial assistance towards the cost of short-term respite breaks. For further information, visit their website.

The Family Fund is a charity that helps low-income families who are looking after a severely disabled child aged 17 or under. They can provide grants for holidays. To check for eligibility criteria, see the Family Fund website.

The League of the Helping Hand is a national charity providing assistance to people who are experiencing hardship due to illness or disability. Funds permitting, they can also offer grants towards carers’ breaks. For further information, see the League of Helping Hand website.

The Ogilvie Charities award grants to support respite holidays for carers. They also offer some funding for family holidays in the UK where a family member suffers a severe disability. For further information, see the Ogilvie website.

The Frederick Andrew Convalescent Trust provides grants to women for convalescence and domestic help. For further details on how to apply, visit their website.

The Respite Association provides short term assistance in the funding of respite care. For further information and details on how to apply, visit the Respite Association website.

Pharmacist Support may be able to assist you with a health and well-being grant. These are provided to pharmacists and their families to support mental or physical quality of life. Typical funding examples include grants for respite care and help for convalescence after an illness or accident.

If you are currently experiencing difficulty, do not hesitate to contact us. We can help you assess whether an application for financial assistance is the best route and discuss what other support might be available for you.

For further information contact us on our general enquiry line: 0808 168 2233ask us a question via our online enquiry service or you can email us on:

Providers of holidays and respite care

CCHF All About Kids offers a range of residential activities and respite breaks for children. For further information, visit the CCHF website.

The Family Holiday Association offers families in difficulties a much needed break. You will need a referral from social services, your GP or a charity. For further information, see the Family Holiday Association website.

The Saga Respite for Carers Trust provides free holidays for carers aged over fifty and the person for whom they care. For further information, visit the Saga website.

The Children’s Trust offer care and support for children and young people with severe disabilities and complex health needs. For further information on the range of short breaks and nursing care services, visit the Children’s Trust website.

Vitalise is a national charity providing respite care for people with disabilities, visually impaired people, and carers. Their centres offer 24 hour care on-call and personal support. They also run breaks especially for guests with Alzheimer’s/dementia. For further information, visit the Vitalise website.

Zoë’s Place Baby Hospices offer palliative, respite and terminal care for babies/infants aged from birth to five years old. They also have facilities for the whole family if required. For further information, visit the Zoe’s Place website.

Other useful contacts

Carers Trust is a charity that offers information, advice and practical support to carers across the UK. For further information, visit the Carers Trust website.

Carers UK Advice Line is open from Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm with specialist advisers available to to assist callers with their queries.  Call them on 0808 808 7777 or visit their website.

Special Kids in the UK is an on-line support group for families of disabled children with special needs. For further information, visit the Special Kids website.

Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) is a national charity that helps older people with their housing and care needs. They also have a free telephone service, FirstStop Advice, and in some instances they can offer face-to-face advice which includes home visits. For further information call 0800 377 7070, or visit the EAC website.

Together for Short Lives is a charity for all children with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions.  Their website includes a search facility for you to find the services you need in your local area. For further information, see the Together for Short Lives website.

Tourism for All is a national charity whose aim is to make tourism accessible to all. If you are planning a trip, in particular if you are older or disabled, for more information about where your specific access needs can be met,visit their website.