This case study shines a light on system leadership: sustaining support for unpaid carers.

Short breaks play a critical role in supporting unpaid carers and people in need of care. However, the respite care sector in Scotland faces many challenges that puts both its sustainability and the future availability of breaks for carers at risk. Operating expenses are increasing and income diminishing. Waiting lists are growing and people in need receive less support.

With as few as 3% of carers estimated to be receiving statutory help with breaks from caring, there are large levels of unmet need within communities. Providers, most of whom are not-for-profit, are now finding it increasingly hard to operate and sustain respite services.

Shining a light: system capacity and sustainability

Shared Care Scotland aims to improve the quality, choice and availability of short breaks and respite care​. They recently shone a light on the challenge by convening a conference on capacity and sustainability alongside service providers Quarriers and Sense Scotland. The conference explored how to ensure sufficient high-quality capacity to meet carers’ needs.

Convening: a helicopter carrying a large box
Convening: Sharing difficult issues, testing ideas and challenging assumptions

Throughout the day delegates had the opportunity to hear presentations, take part in discussions and listen to a wide range of perspectives and experiences. The policy landscape, existing levels of short breaks provision, the sustainability of the market and levels of unmet need were the focus of the discussion.





Championing: someone using a walkie talkie

Championing: voices for change

As well as hearing from third sector representatives, a panel discussion featured speakers from the Scottish Government, Health & Social Care Partnerships, the Care Inspectorate – and carers themselves.

Carer Jaynie Mitchell gave an inspiring presentation, explaining: “Our breaks should be as unique as we are.”

Shared Care Scotland CEO Don Williamson also gave a speech, highlighting: “The need to ensure we have a diverse short breaks marketplace that responds to the needs and circumstances of all unpaid carers”.


Clarifying: someone aims a large spotlight towards the ground
Clarifying: what is the shared goal?

Don went on to set out principles for success in short breaks including: choice, availability and sustainability; quality, accessibility, advocacy, and vision and leadership. The organisation then put out a call during Carers Week, aiming to unite everyone involved in short breaks around a shared goal:

Let’s make it our shared mission to establish a sustainable and flourishing marketplace for short breaks provision, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the benefits of regular breaks that work best for them. 



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the guide to system capacity, sustainability and leadership