Sitting and befriending services

Some local carer services and charities offer a sitting or befriending service where a trained person stays with the person you care for while you go out.

Some of the services offered by the organisations on this web page may have been adapted due to Coronavirus. Get in touch with them to see what they can offer you.

Sitting services

Sitting services give you a chance to have a few hours away from the person you care for. 

Some sitting schemes have trained volunteers who come to your home and spend time with the person you care for. A volunteer will not normally provide care, such as personal care, but they will be able to help with basic tasks like making a meal or going out. As well as giving you time to take a break the person you care for can benefit from spending time with someone different. This type of sitting service is often free, or there maybe a small charge. They are often run by your local carer service or a local charity.

Other sitting services provide care. This means you can take a break even if the person you care for needs a lot of support, including personal care. These services can be run by charities or commercial provider agencies (care agencies) and they employ paid support workers rather than volunteers. There is usually a charge for this sort of sitting service. 

The person you care for will usually need an assessment before you can use a sitting service. This could be as simple as talking to the organisation who provides it, to make sure the person you care for will get on with the volunteer that visits. Or it could mean having an assessment from the local council. 

You should also make sure you ask your local council for a carer’s assessment as it looks at the support you need to carry on caring – this could include regular respite and breaks. 

Befriending schemes

Befriending schemes offer companionship and support to you or the person you care for. They can help reduce isolation and loneliness. Find out more about tackling loneliness.

Befriending could mean:

  • A volunteer regularly visiting the person so you care for so that you can take a short break.
  • Someone visiting you for a short time so that you have the chance to talk to someone different.
  • A weekly phone call from a volunteer so that you, or the person you care for, has a chance to have a chat. This can be helpful if it is not easy for you to leave the house very often.

Find out more about sitting and befriending services

Contact your local carer services to see what is available near you, or search online.

  • Many local Age UKs have befriending and sitting services.
  • Age UK also has a telephone befriending scheme.
  • Befriending Networks provides an online database of befriending services throughout the UK
  • Other local charities, particularly those that support people with specific conditions, may run schemes near you.
  • Independent Age offers regular phone calls or visits for older people.
  • Scope offers befriending to parent carers. Some areas have a face-to-face scheme but if you don't have a scheme in your area, you can join Scope's online community and talk to other parents of disabled children..
  • If you live in England or Wales your local Mind branch may run befriending groups and one-to-one befriending. Search for a Mind branch where you live.  

Asking friends and family for help

You could also ask your friends and family if they could help look after the person you care for while you go out and get a break.

Further information

Find out more about:

Paid help at home

How to pay for respite

Date revised: 24/07/2020