Featured member - Caring Breaks

22 Mar 2017 Shauna O'Neill    Last updated: 4 Jul 2019

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Short Respite Breaks for Family Carers of Adults with a Learning Disability.

Caring Breaks was set up in 1999 by the family carers of adults with a learning disability living in the South & East Belfast area in response to the scarce supply of respite options available for them.  The service works as a partnership between carers themselves and people from the business community and statutory sector.

The needs of the target population were identified as twofold:

  • Family carers need time for themselves to have a break from their continuous caring responsibilities. 
  • Adults with a learning disability require stimulating activity which has the potential to assist their personal development and help integrate them into their local community.      

The Nature of the Respite Breaks

Trained and paid staff provide support and supervision for adults with a learning disability who live at home with their parents/carers.  The level of care provided is in the form of short respite sessions (4-5 hours) offered on a weekly basis, which provides regular breaks for carers in the evenings and at weekends.  Extended breaks are also provided which span a weekend - Friday to Sunday, where adults with a learning disability can get away for the weekend with their friends, stay in self-catering accommodation and participate in activities in the local community. 

The core themes of the respite service offered by Caring Breaks are social inclusion and community involvement.  The family carer experiences what they tell us is ‘conscience free’ respite.  This term ‘conscience free’ was coined by family carers themselves and by that they mean that they can take a break, secure in the knowledge that their son or daughter is not only being well cared for, but is doing something that they enjoy. 

During the lifetime of Caring Breaks, the variety and level of services provided has widened significantly in response to the changing needs of clients and carers.

Current Position

Caring Breaks now operates across the Belfast area and has small projects in Bangor and Lisburn.  200+ family carers benefit from regular short breaks and 130 adults with a learning disability participate in social and recreational activities of their choice. 

Family carers say that Caring Breaks is a lifeline for them and is a crucial element in making it possible for them to continue to care for their loved ones at home.  The respite breaks they receive allow them to pursue their own interests and provide relief from the stress, pressure and anxiety of caring for their loved one. 

Comments from Carers

We never went out anywhere on our own.  We always took our son with us.  We never got a break because we couldn’t leave him on his own.  Now we can go out for a meal or meet friends and we know he is having a good time.’

‘Caring Breaks has changed our lives.  We feel our son is part of a community.  He enjoys getting out.  He loves the activities and the weekends and we are able to relax and be content that he is safe and happy when he is out with Caring Breaks.’

‘I feel so much better and not under so much pressure or stress.  I can do things with other family members.’ 

Contact details:  

Caring Breaks, Graham House, Knockbracken Healthcare Park, Saintfield Rd, Belfast BT8 8BH 
Tel: 028 9070 9118
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: www.caringbreaks.com
Facebook: CaringBreaks 
Twitter: @caringbreaks

Quote on Sector Matters support:
“Caring Breaks has benefited from professional advice and HR assistance from Sector Matters for over 5 years.  As a small organisation, the personal contact with the HR consultant in helping us to develop and update our policies and procedures has been particularly successful”. 


shauna.oneill@nicva.org's picture
by Shauna O'Neill

Information Officer

[email protected]

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