This report describes the findings of research carried out between August and December 2011 into the experiences of unpaid carers in accessing and using short breaks (respite care). The study explored, from the carers’ perspective the benefits of short breaks (provided by formal services and family and friends), good practice in planning and provision, deficits and areas for improvement. Research findings are based on 1210 responses to a Scotland-wide survey distributed through carer organisations, four focus groups involving 36 carers and 13 interviews.
Key findings from the study: • Over half of the survey respondents felt that caring had negatively affected their interests and hobbies and their mental wellbeing. Over 40% reported that caring had negatively affected their family life, friends, finances, physical wellbeing and career. Similar findings emerged from the interviews and focus groups. However, a third of respondents said that caring had a positive impact on their hobbies, family life, physical wellbeing and friendships. • Short breaks were considered fundamental to carers to help alleviate the physical and emotional demands of caring and to sustain the caring relationship, preventing admission to residential care. • Over half (57%) of survey respondents had not taken a break from caring. Sixty-three percent of black and minority ethnic (BME) carers had not had a break from caring. • Those who had taken a break were most likely to be satisfied with the quality of the break, the choice, support to organise it and the length. Respondents were most likely to be dissatisfied about the frequency of breaks. • Over half of respondents (56%) noted that the level of their breaks had stayed the same over the last two years. Twenty-five percent of respondents noted that the frequency of their breaks had decreased. Those most likely to report a decrease were providing care to a parent. Twenty percent of respondents said that the level of their breaks had increased over the last two years. • Forty-three percent of those who had not had a short break identified that this was because they did not know how to access short breaks. • Other barriers to participants taking breaks from caring included: | Difficulty with the planning process | A lack of appropriate and personalised provision | Guilt | Uncertainty about eligibility