Looking for respite? Learn what options are available

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Carers fulfil their role out of love for a person with disability who needs support, but at times day to day caring duties can become overwhelming and stressful, no matter how much a carer loves the person they care for.

Key points

  • Respite can be important for you and your carer to maintain your wellbeing and a strong relationship
  • There are lots of different types of respite to choose from
  • The respite you choose might depend on costs, location, services and supports offered by the respite provider

This is when taking a break from the caring role can help to restore a carer’s energy and give a person with disability time to meet other people, create new experiences or be supported to do activities they enjoy.

There are many options for respite services which can give you and your carer anything from a few hours to a few weeks of support to rejuvenate.

The options which you pick for respite might depend on the location, cost of respite and whether it suits the person you care for – particularly their interests and support requirements. For more information about finding, accessing and funding respite read our guide here.

Some services are free, some can be covered by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and if you are 65 years old or older respite may be covered by My Aged Care.

If you’re looking for respite you can learn what respite options might be available to you in this article, so that you and your carer can have the best possible relationship and enjoy your time apart as well.

Formal options


This is where a care worker will come to your home to look after you, so your carer can go out for a few hours, or they might take you out for a coffee or a walk.

This type of respite care service is available during the day or overnight and support workers are not only funded to be with you for that time but to do activities that you want to do. You could arrange with the support worker to watch a movie, go shopping, do art or crafts or go to a park to do some birdwatching or photography, for example.

In-home respite care can reassure carers that their loved one is in safe hands and will be well cared for in an environment where they are comfortable.


Provided at day centres, community centres or clubs, this form of respite involves care in a group setting for part of the day, with the centre staffed by trained support workers.

Services at these centres usually are available between certain times, and you may be able to get access to transport to and from the centre if you require it or may be provided a meal at the centre.

The centre or club will often organise activities and outings and give you the opportunity to socialise with other people.

For example, the centre might arrange a day trip to a local tourist attraction, a park, the beach or for a picnic. As for activities, the centre might organise for you to do craft, different types of art, board games, party games or hold celebrations of holidays like Christmas.

A centre-based care service can allow your carer time to do other things during the day, like grocery shopping or meeting up with their friends.

Overnight or over the weekend

Overnight or weekend respite can be provided in many ways.

It can be provided in several settings, such as in your own home, in the home of a host or in Short Term Accommodation.

A support worker will stay with you in your home overnight to look after you, or you can spend the night away from home in a respite house, cottage or other hotel type accommodation.

Respite in accommodation involves you heading to a local place in your community or to the home of a host family to stay, usually for two to three days.

The NDIS funds up to 28 days of Short Term Accommodation per year and this funding can be used flexibly, for example, you might want to use it in a block of up to 14 days at a time or for one weekend a month.

This funding is usually for a group price, unless you can prove that you need individual support because of your disability. This means you may share supports and workers with other people staying in the accommodation.

If you already have funding in your Core budget, you can use this for Short Term Accommodation.

Community access

Community access services provide you with a break and a change of scenery while also giving the opportunity to participate in social experiences. This can include activities to help develop independent living and social skills.

Provided either individually or in a group, a care worker will accompany you to a community based activity and will work with you to help you build stronger relationships and connection with people.

It also provides you with an opportunity to engage in fun activities with like minded individuals. These activities could include anything that you’re interested in, for example woodworking, cooking and baking, fitness activities, computer skills, financial skills or even outdoor activities like lawn bowls and golf.

Transport can be part of your community access service too, particularly if you are unable to catch public transport.


Residential respite care is when you go to stay in a facility to be looked after, such as in supported accommodation.

If your carer needs to go to hospital or would like to go on a holiday, but you need help every day, you can also move into a nursing home for a short stay to receive care. You’ll return home when your carer is back to care for you.

You are able to access subsidised residential services for up to 63 days a year, planned or unplanned, without it affecting any payments your carer receives from the Government.

When in residential care, expect to be treated as if you were a regular resident of the aged care home or supported accommodation, with access to the same level of care and support.

Emergency respite

If your carer is suddenly not able to look after you emergency respite care is available.

There are certain situations which make you eligible for emergency care, including the sudden death of your primary carer, a major illness that has affected your primary carer, or family troubles.

If you need this urgently, you can contact Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 for help. Carer Gateway is the Government hub for carers’ support and assistance across the country.

State and Territory based respite

State and Territory Government funds may be available for respite services in places such as day centres or hospitals – particularly for people who are sick or terminally ill and their carers.

To access these services you will likely need a referral from your doctor or a health care professional.

More information about the options in your State or Territory can be found here:

Informal options

Friends or family

Family members or close friends might be able to look after you for a time, for example, if your carer needs to attend an appointment.

You and your carer know best how long these family members and friends might be able to safely support you for and in what activities.

For example, if you need help to get into bed and out of bed it may not be safe for family or friends to lift you, move you or use any hoists you have if they don’t have training or experience. In this case it would be best not to arrange for them to provide informal respite overnight, but it might be fine for them to provide informal respite for a few hours during the day.

Recreational activities

This could be anything from music classes, story time at the local library, Scouts, sports clubs, playgroups, camps and other community groups can give your child something fun to get involved in. For adults you could also attend sports training, music lessons, craft groups or even volunteer in the local community.

You’ll need to ask whether these activities and organisations can accommodate you.

Recreational activities can also be an opportunity for your carer to have a break and connect with other local carers. Some recreational groups may have parent groups or support groups which run alongside them.

While you may have to pay for these activities and they are likely to be quite structured, they are informal respite options because they are also available to people without disability and are not respite specific.

For children with disabilities

The Australian Government’s Inclusion Support Program can provide funding to long day care centres, family day care and occasional care services to include children with disability, which can give parent and family carers time during the day.

This informal form of respite also ensures children with disability have similar opportunities to other children to socialise and participate in an early learning environment.

A school-aged child with disability may also be able to attend after-school and vacation care programs for a few hours.

While you will likely have to pay for these services they are considered informal because they are not labelled specifically as respite and are services offered to all children.

Do you access respite? Tell us about the services you use in the comments below.

Related content:
Short Term Accommodation (STA) and respite under the NDIS
Accessing respite services for someone with disability
What can the Carer Gateway do for you?