What is Short Breaks Respite?

The aim of Short Breaks Respite support generally is to support people within their family and community. The NHSN encourages families to engage their own supports through their own natural support networks such as family, local community, neighbours and through the Volunteer Programme. However, the NHSN recognises the need for more formalised supports that some families require.  

We recommend that where possible, short breaks respite supports should be provided in the home & in the community via Host Families, Community/Family Support, Outreach Projects and in other innovative and inclusive ways.  Centre Based respite is recommended to be available for Children and Adults with complex needs which cannot be met in a community environment e.g. severe challenging behaviour involving a threat to self or others or medical needs.

Definition of Short Breaks / Respite

“Short Breaks” is increasingly subsuming the term Respite internationally as it is seen to more accurately express its function and be less stigmatising of its receivers.  The term “Short Breaks Respite” is used interchangeably with “Home Sharing” and “Short Breaks” as the term “respite” is still commonly understood and in use.

There is international consensus that the definition of Short Breaks/Respite includes the provision of short term, time limited and regular breaks from caring, which;

  • Aims to support and sustain the care giving relationship 
  • Is part of a continuum of support services that should be available for people with disabilities and their families
  • Is an early intervention and preventative model of support which would be provided early and at a sufficient level to prevent crisis occurring
  • Provides people with a disability with opportunities to gain new and positive experiences away from their families, promotes the well being and experiences of the person with a disability and at the same time supports carers to have a break

Principals of best practice identified from national and international research

  1. That Short Break/Respite Services are person centred and family centred
  1. That Short Break/Respite Services are provided on a rights basis
  1. That respite is defined as a support service and regarded amongst the system of support services.
  1. That there is a single point of access to respite care services in a given administrative area.
  1. That respite services are designed in consultation with families in acknowledgement of their expertise in providing care.
  1. That respite is designed to facilitate the service user in building relationships in their community.
  1. That respite services are age appropriate and develop as a service user develops.
  1. That respite care services have clear goals and that systematic and regular review ensures achievement of those goals.
  1. Building the capacity of universal services to better support people with a disability while including them in such services.
  2. Increase flexibility, choice and control for families and carers through direct funding arrangements.

The research confirms that there is an ongoing challenge to provide respite and particularly community based respite options for those who need it most, people with an intellectual disability that have challenging behaviour or complex medical or ageing needs.

Commonly Cited Outcomes of Short Breaks Respite 

For the Family: 

  • To have a break, time out from the routine and demands of providing care
  • The chance to spend time with other family members
  • Opportunities to do day-to-day tasks or activities
  • Enable rest, relaxation and uninterrupted sleep to recharge batteries
  • To maintain employment or adult education 

For the Person: 

  • Improved quality of life
  • Improved self-confidence and social skills
  • The opportunity to learn new things
  • Increased independence, communication skills and making new friends

Short Breaks Respite builds capacity to care and enables carers to continue caring. It often augments caring to a good enough standard when this is compromised by the frailty of elderly parents or those unable for a variety of reasons to meet the full requirements of care.  While the safeguarding function of short breaks respite is clear, this is seldom highlighted because of its family support function.