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Understanding Respite Care

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Everyone needs a break. And that includes people with disability and their carers. Having the space, time and ability to be independent is as important for the person receiving care as it is for the person providing care. This is where respite care can help.

What is respite care?

Respite provides an opportunity for carers to take a break from their caring responsibilities by accessing alternative care. Alternative care can be provided in home or in a specialised facility during the day, overnight or for a longer duration. Respite not only provides carers with the capacity for a break, it also provides people with disability the chance to engage with new people and have more independence.

Respite care and the NDIS

There has been some confusion around respite care since the introduction of the NDIS. This is because the NDIS focus on people with disability, their goals and enabling them to live as independently as possible.

While the NDIS does maintain this centered focus, it also recognises the key role carers provide to their loved ones. Carers are considered an informal support, which means someone who is a family member or friend who provides unpaid support to a person with disability.

The term ‘respite care’ was used before the NDIS came into play and is one they have moved away from. There is currently no item listed under the NDIS that specifically states ‘respite care’, which can make it difficult for people struggling to source information online. There are some key NDIS terminologies you should look out for if you are seeking ‘respite care’.

They are:

  • Short Term Accommodation and Assistance (STA) - This refers to temporary support which is different from usual arrangements. STA includes non-typical days and may include short stays in a group-based facility (short term accommodation), or the purchase of additional in-home support.

  • Assistance with Daily Living - This category refers to assisting with and/or supervising personal tasks of daily life to enable the participant to live as autonomously as possible. This support can be provided in a range of environments, including but not limited to, the participant’s own home.

  • Assistance with self-care overnight - This refers to assistance with, or supervision of, personal tasks of daily living where overnight support is needed. There are different levels involved, such as where the caregiver has the option to sleep, must remain awake, or provide intensive overnight support.

Levels respite care under the NDIS

There are three levels of respite services available under the NDIS which is determined by the level of disability and support required from families and carers.

  • Level 1: Between 7 to 14 days per year to allow families or carers who provide support most days to attend key activities relevant to other members of the family

  • Level 2: Between 14 and 28 days per year as part of a strategy to build future independence

  • Level 3: Allows 28 days per year where families and carers provide support most days but their care recipient is experiencing severe behavioural issues or requires intensive support

Higher levels of support may be an option to ensure that families and carers are able to continue working or studying, or to put more long-term supports in place.

Different types of respite care

The main types of respite care are:

  • In-home respite – offers support provided in the home by a paid worker to do an activity that interests the person receiving care, socialising or helping to learn a new skill. Overnight or weekend is also an option (more details below).

  • Overnight or weekend – involves a paid worker providing care at home or a facility, where the support is provided overnight.

  • Community access – encourages community access for a person with disability to do an activity, socialise or attend a group class with a paid worker for a certain period.

  • Centre-based respite – This is usually held at a day centre or club that organises group activities for people with disability.

  • Residential respite – this involves a short stay in a residential care home for the care recipient for a night, weekend, a week or several weeks. This is known as ‘short-term accommodation and assistance (STA)’ under the NDIS.

  • Recreational respite – is where the person receiving care is going to a camp or day activity with either a group of other people with disability or others in their age group.

  • Emergency – is an alternative supported accommodation or in-home support if there is the case where the carer has an emergency and is not able to provide care

  • Informal – informal (unpaid) respite care can be organised with a family or friend who can provide care.

Accessing respite care

If respite care is something that would benefit both a participant and their carer, and it is one of the participant’s goals to be more independent in some aspects of their life, it’s important to have a discussion with the NDIA. That way the NDIA can look at what is ‘reasonable and necessary’ to help determine what support can be provided and included in the participant’s NDIS Plan.

Funding for STA falls under the Core Supports Assistance with Daily Life category in an NDIS Plan. If this Core Support has been included in the NDIS Plan, then you can choose to use some of your funding towards facilitating respite care and support.

If you are unsure about the current amount of funding under your Core Supports category and you are a First2Care Plan Managed Participant, you can login to your personal Plan Magic online portal and view your current budget.

If you currently don't have access to your personal Plan Magic online portal, you can contact 1300 322 273 or to arrange for your personal login details and password to be generated.

Read more about the benefits of working with an independent, professional Plan Manager. Alternatively, contact our friendly team on 1300 322 273 or


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