Short Breaks Bureau - Supporting meaningful short breaks for unpaid carers and cared for people in Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership


Falkirk HSCP Adult Services run a local Short Breaks Bureau service for carers and cared for people, ensuring a flexible, person-centred approach that allows carers to use their respite budget in alternative ways. At the heart of this approach is a desire to ensure carers and cared for people have a break that is meaningful for both.

This impact story looks at how the Short Breaks Bureau team planned and implemented this pioneering approach to care, focusing on their approach to delivering alternatives to traditional care homes and testing different ideas to achieve good outcomes for the carer and cared for person.

This is the first time l have used this service and l am really pleased with the overall experience." Feedback from unpaid carer on their experience of Falkirk HSCP's Short Breaks Bureau service


In 2001, Falkirk Council’s Community Care team (now Falkirk HSCP, Adult Services) recognised the need to design and implement an approach to planning and delivering short breaks, becoming one of the first areas in Scotland to establish a Short Breaks Bureau. Developed out of the ‘Modernising Community Care’ approach from the late nineties, and a commitment to be responsive to the needs of their local population, the Bureau works with staff, carers and cared for people who require support in understanding and planning short breaks.

When planning short breaks, the team aim to utilise respite budget to ensure carers and those they care for had choice and control and are able to access short breaks that are achievable and meet their outcomes. This approach recognises the importance of shared experiences and aims to provide a meaningful break for both parties involved.

Initially, the team considered UK-based breaks where the carer and cared for person would have access to the NHS and aid as a UK citizen. Over the years, the program has evolved based on feedback from carers, cared for people and staff, who expressed a desire to explore different options. Building on the feedback the team have been able to push the boundaries to include some overseas short breaks.


The Community Care Team worked with senior managers, carer centre staff, social workers, carers and those they care for to co-design their approach to short breaks.


The Bureau collaborates closely with carers, cared for people, social work teams, service managers, carer centres and providers to design and implement this approach to short breaks.

Central planning hub

By liaising with accommodation providers, checking travel insurance, and ensuring that disclosed care needs align with the arrangements (if breaks are within the UK) the team can work closely with local authorities at the destination to secure additional support if required. They have also created a quality assurance checklist of things that need to be in place to ensure a successful break for both the carer and the cared for individual.

Good conversations and transparency

The Bureau’s approach facilitates good outcomes focused conversations with the carer and cared for person, to see if they would like to do something different and recognising there is a shared risk outwith traditional respite settings.

Continuous Improvement

The team are continuously reviewing and evaluating short breaks to ensure the carer has had a proper break.

Guidance Review

Guidance is regularly reviewed to streamline funding options and the booking process, and to allow increased transparency to simplify the process for carers and staff.


Short breaks have been fabulous when we have taken my daughter away" Feedback from unpaid carer on their experience of Falkirk HSCP’s Short Breaks Bureau service


By providing personalised and meaningful breaks, the program has helped carers and those they care for to achieve much-needed breaks, enabling them to not only continue in their caring role, but also create lasting and meaningful memories.

Since 2001, the Bureau has developed significantly and now supports three locality teams as well as the integrated Learning Disability, Sensory and Mental Health Teams.

In 2022-23 there were 43 alternative type breaks that took place. 21 of these breaks had two unpaid carers supporting the cared for person on the break and the remaining breaks had just one unpaid carer.

Impact for carers and those they care for: Impact for team:
  • Carers and cared for people, can exercise choice and control when planning care and short breaks that work for them.
  • Carers and cared for people’s health and wellbeing outcomes have been met in creative ways that are unique to those involved.
  • The service takes a person-centred approach that actively addresses challenges and clarifies expectations with carers and providers, providing clear guidance to ensure that carers' budgets are used appropriately.
  • The short break bureau approach to alternative breaks ensures that unpaid carers have access to a structured system of support. This can alleviate feelings of isolation by providing access to a centralised ‘knowledge hub’.
  • Enables relationship-based practice, allowing teams to truly deliver a person-centred approach to support planning.
  • Collaborative teamwork: The short break bureau approach often involves collaboration between the social work teams, the short breaks bureau, the carer and the cared for person working together to allocate and schedule short breaks. This effort can foster a sense of teamwork and cohesion among team members.

Key Enablers

1. Partnership and co-production with leadership teams

Joint working across social work team managers, carer centre colleagues, finance and senior management to co-produce and implement short breaks.

2. Communication

Learning how to articulate outcomes of alternative short breaks really clearly, becoming more skilled at communicating what we are doing and why.

3. Transparency and good governance

The Bureau's commitment to transparency and consistent quality outcome focussed reporting has strengthened its position within Falkirk HSCP and enabled ongoing support for carers.

4. Positive collaboration

The Bureau's approach to alternative breaks has fostered positive collaborations with care providers and commissioning teams. Working closely to maintain open communication to ensure that carers and cared for people’s expectations are met.

5. Demonstrating impact

The budget for alternative breaks was established early on, and the Bureau has continuously demonstrated the impact of their approach, leading to sustained funding.

6. Implementation of the Carers Act (2016)

The Carers Act was a significant enabler, particularly the requirement to have an Adult Carer Support Plan (ACSP) and Young Carers Statements (YCS), which serves as a gateway to accessing respite services and creates greater awareness of the rights available to unpaid carers.

Opportunities for improvement

Whole system understanding of the impact of short breaks

Learning can still be done across caring system to fully recognise the benefit that short breaks provides for carers and those they care for.

Tackling Inequalities

Engaging with carers in the most vulnerable groups. The team continue to work with all groups to ensure that they have access to the same opportunities and good conversations

Early Identification

Having conversations with families earlier and providing access to care options (including short breaks) before they reach crisis point. The team are actively addressing this, with approval for a new Social Care Officer role that will work across all localities to support carers. The role will focus on assessing the cared for person to enable respite to take place more quickly, supporting a preventative approach.

Further Information

To find out more about Falkirk’s approach to supporting unpaid carers, please contact the team at:

Read more about the work of the Unpaid Carers Improvement Programme including further impact stories here.