There are several options open to you when it comes to financing respite care, such as funding from the local authority, direct payments and self-funding.

On this page you can find details about each option.

1. Local authority assessment
2. Local authority funding
3. Direct payments
4. Self-funding respite care
5. Charity funding

Local authority assessment

Local authorities will only pay for respite care for those that they have assessed as needing it. This can be determined by your relative having a needs assessment or you having a carer's assessment.

Care needs assessment

This is a free assessment from the local authority to assess the level of care and support that your relative requires. It should include assessing their needs for respite care. It should also consider the needs and views of any carers.

If your relative needs help and support to live independently at home, it’s likely that they will have had a needs assessment already. If they haven’t, or you feel that circumstances have changed, then you should contact your relative’s local authority to arrange one as soon as possible.

Carer’s assessment 

If you provide regular or substantial care, it is essential that you get a separate assessment – known as a carer’s assessment.

This looks at the caring arrangement from your perspective and should consider your needs relating to your health, work, learning, leisure and family. It should also take into account whether you are willing and able to continue caring for your relative. If not, it should look at alternative methods of care.

Following an assessment, local authorities might decide that respite care is needed for one of two reasons:

  • the person being cared for needs short-term respite care, or
  • the person caring for them needs a break from caring.

Local authorities might contribute towards the cost of respite care, but the level of funding a person receives depends on their financial situation. This will be determined by a financial test, which differs depending on whether your relative is Financing care at home or Financing a care home.

'She's been there 21 months now and is very well looked after.' Ken's story

Local authorities may fund respite care directly or give direct payments, so that people that need care, or their carers, can arrange services themselves.

Local authority funding for respite care in a care home

‘Temporary’ stays in a care home can be for up to 52 weeks and can be paid for in two ways:

  • the local authority can apply the financial assessment straight away or
  • they can ask the person that needs care to pay a ‘reasonable amount’ for the first eight weeks, then apply the financial assessment.

The financial assessment for respite care in a care home is similar to that used for permanent care in a care home. The local authority will use the same upper and lower limits when assessing capital (see Capital limits for care homes), but they will ignore:

  • the value of your relative’s home as they intend to go back to it
  • some of your relative’s income so that they can continue to pay bills at home, such as water rates and insurance
  • any Housing Benefit and the housing cost element in Pension Credit.

Local authority funding for respite care at home

The local authority should contribute towards the cost of respite care at home if:

  • the care needs assessment or carer’s assessment shows that respite care at home is necessary and
  • the financial assessment shows that you/your relative are eligible for local authority funding.

It might provide services directly, or you can request a direct payment or personal budget to purchase assessed services from the provider of your choice. For more information about personal budgets and direct payments, see How much will local authorities pay for care homes?

Direct payments

If direct payments are given to a carer to meet needs specified in their carer’s assessment, the money can only be used to meet the carer’s needs, not those of the person they care for. For example, if a carer’s assessment says that you need a few hours off a week, you could use direct payments to pay someone to sit with your relative, while you go shopping, attend a course or meet up with friends.

Or, if your relative is able to get out and about, you might use direct payments to pay for them to attend a day centre or a regular leisure/activity class once a week. The direct payments could cover transport and any other costs involved in attending the class.

If you and your relative are not eligible for local authority funding, you may have to fund your own respite care. This might mean paying for a substitute carer or funding a short stay in a care home. A cheaper alternative might be to ask another family member, friend or neighbour to step in and help with the caring responsibilities.

Self-funding respite care

There are several ways that you or your relative might raise cash to pay for respite care:

  • Income: from pensions, work, investments or property
  • Savings
  • Benefits and allowances for older people
  • Benefits for carers. If you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week you may be entitled to a benefit for carers. Taking short breaks from caring should not normally affect your entitlement, as long as breaks are no longer than four weeks in a 26-week period.

Charity funding

  • Some charities, such as Age UK or the Royal Voluntary Society (RVS) offer low cost respite care. They might run subsidised day centres or help at home.
  • Some charitable organisations, such as Revitalise, offer subsidised holidays for elderly or disabled people.
  • The charity Turn2Us can offer charitable grants to those in financial need.

See Useful organisations and websites for details of these charities.

More information

Page last reviewed: 31 August 2015
Next review due: 30 November 2016