Communities and Justice


What is respite?

Respite is planned, regular or one-off time limited breaks for parents, carers and children. Respite is provided by an authorised respite carer, this may include adult siblings, family/kin, friends, neighbours, volunteers or professional carers. Respite can occur in the child’s home, another home or a variety of out-of-home settings. It can be for different lengths of time and frequency, depending on need of the parents or carers.

All forms of parenting can be demanding and planned regular respite acknowledges that parents, carers and children have their own needs. Respite can help sustain the parent or carer, so they are able to provide the stability, care, and support that children need.

Also see Carer Code of Conduct (PDF, 383.7 KB).

Occasional care is not respite

Irregular, occasional care arrangements with a person known to the child or child’s carers of up to 21 nights per calendar year (cumulative):

  • is not considered to be a respite placement
  • does not require the person providing care to be authorised or subject to probity checks.

This may include a child staying overnight at a friend’s house, going away for holidays with friends/extended family, attending camps, or babysitting. This is a natural way to enrich a child’s life through connections and experiences. Children in care are entitled to have experiences like their peers.

Respite entitlement

Parents of a child with a case plan goal of preservation; or the carers of a child in OOHC are entitled to respite.

The need for respite is considered in case planning and recorded in a family’s family action plan (in the case of preservation), or in a child’s OOHC case plan (in the case of OOHC).

The respite entitlement included in costing of PSP service packages is the equivalent of up to 24 nights respite per year. Whilst the costing for respite is based on ‘nights’:

  • respite can take many forms and is not restricted to overnight care or care outside a carer’s or parent’s home
  • innovative and flexible arrangements can meet the needs of the parents, help the child to feel safe and secure and allow carers to feel supported.

For some children respite with another carer, a member of their birth family or a member of the carer’s family or friend network is not practical due to the high support needs of the child. These children and carers are entitled to respite. Consider paid respite in these circumstances. Speak with the CFDU about whether funding through a Complex Needs package may be suitable in these circumstances. 

Respite for preservation

An informal respite arrangement may be put in place by the parents, for a child with a case plan goal of preservation. For example, a parent needs to attend residential rehabilitation and there is no other parent who can care for their child during this time.

Under such arrangements, care may be provided by:

  • a relative or family member (including those identified through work to find family)
  • another individual in a private capacity.

Alternatively, care may be provided by a registered voluntary OOHC provider on a fee-for-service basis.

Such arrangements may be supported by the PSP provider (including incurring related expenditure).

Respite for children in OOHC

Emergency placements

Respite is only provided to a child when the child has a permanent placement. Respite does not include:

  • emergency placements
  • placements resulting from a breakdown in the permanent placement
  • placements arising as a result of the investigation of reportable allegations in relation to the child’s carer
  • placements arising from an away from placement event or critical event.

Also see NSW Child Safe Standards for Permanent Care in PCMP Resources – List: Frameworks, Standards, Guidelines & Assessment Tools

Planning a respite placement

Any person who provides regular, frequent respite (more than 21 nights cumulative in a year) to a child in OOHC is required to be assessed and authorised as a foster or relative/kin carer (clause 33 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulations 2012).

When a PSP provider arranges a respite placement for a child, consideration is given to:

  • the child’s views and wishes
  • the child’s strengths, needs and vulnerabilities
  • requirements to ensure the child’s safety, welfare and wellbeing
  • the impact of the placement on the child’s stability and sense of belonging
  • significant relationships with their family/kin and the carer’s family/kin and friends.

The first preference is to assess and authorise a member of the child’s family/kin, identified through work to find family. Decisions about which member to assess are made with the family, through FGC or Aboriginal family-led decision making.

If it is not practicable or in the child’s best interests to be placed with a relative/kin respite carer:

  • the second preference is to assess and authorise another person known to the child, such as a member of the foster carer’s family/kin or a friend
  • the next preference is to provide a respite placement using the PSP provider’s existing pool of foster carers.

Also see PCMP Resources – Checklist: Assessment of Respite Carers.

Respite – Aboriginal children

Respite for an Aboriginal child and their parents or family/kin is approached in a manner respectful of culture and in accordance with relevant legislation and principles, including:

  • Aboriginal people are to be given the opportunity to participate in the care and protection of their children with as much self-determination as possible (section 11).
  • Aboriginal families, kinship groups, organisations and communities are to be given the opportunity, to participate in decisions made concerning the placement of Aboriginal children and other significant decisions (section 12).
  • Respite placement of Aboriginal children is to be with a member of the child’s extended family/kin within the Aboriginal community to which the child belongs (section 13).

Respite is provided by an Aboriginal family/kin or an Aboriginal person or ACCO. When respite is not available from these sources, non-Aboriginal respite carers receive cultural awareness training and support, before the respite placement occurs

Respite – children from CALD backgrounds

Respite for a child and their family/kin from a CALD background is approached in a manner respectful of tradition, rituals, faith and customs; and in accordance with relevant legislation and principles.

A child with a CALD background is matched with respite carers of the same cultural background. When this is not possible, respite carers receive cultural awareness training and support, and demonstrate culturally responsive competencies, before the respite placement occurs.

Respite – children with disability

Respite for children with disability in OOHC is provided by the PSP Provider and if the child is a NDIS participant, the NDIS (where the NDIA has determined this to be reasonable and necessary). Respite supports should not be reduced by one agency because it is funded by another. PSP providers provide respite to support the carer or the placement.

NDIS funded respite provides additional support to the carer in recognition that parents and carers of children with disability often need more regular breaks to prevent family stress and maintain wellbeing. Children with disability also often require access to specialist disability respite providers to meet the child’s specific disability support needs.

In the NDIS, respite support is called short-term accommodation. For further information, visit the NDIS website.

Respite – siblings

Respite could provide an opportunity for sibling time (if siblings live in separate placements). In some circumstances it may be appropriate to arrange respite for sibling groups to maintain family connections and develop or strengthen sibling relationships. Also see sibling time.

Last updated:

11 Oct 2023