An estimated 8.8 million unpaid carers in the UK provide 80% of home care. Rarely are they recognised for their frontline role and they lack access to the same support as NHS staff or paid care home workers.
Until now, access to carer breaks has been an issue. These can be landlocked by lack of funds, shortages in interim care and unequal opportunities across different local authorities and regions.
Meanwhile, excess capacity is a fact of life for every hotel. Unsold rooms don't have to lose their value. On the contrary, every vacancy is a break waiting to happen.
Charity tech start-up Carefree has a groundbreaking model which enables accommodation providers to see surplus inventory not as a loss but as an opportunity, turning empty rooms into short breaks for those in need of respite.
By providing hotels with the capability to donate their unsold rooms to carers, Carefree has been able to open up a transformative supply of break options at no extra cost to the public purse so that carers don't have to wait any longer to get the respite support they need.
32-year-old Adele from Brighton is a full-time carer for her mum who lives with multiple sclerosis. Adele has taken two Carefree breaks with her sister in London and Manchester.
Adele said: "When you're in the middle of it the person you're caring for comes first and that's the priority and it can become all-consuming. By finding Carefree and taking a break it helps you to renew yourself to then support your loved one or the person you care for much more."
90% of users say they wouldn't have been able to take a break without Carefree. According to Carers UK, 64% of unpaid carers have not been able to take any breaks from their caring role during the pandemic - despite providing £193 billion of care value to the UK economy last year.
Over 1,000 carers have benefited so far but thanks to the charity's new self-referral programme, it's hoped more than 8,000 unpaid carers can benefit from a Carefree break in 2022.
Carefree CEO Charlotte Newman says: "It's so important that carers get the chance to take advantage of this opportunity. We have around 3,000 nights available for booking each month at hotels across the country. Time-away to look after themselves is within their reach, we just need them to know about it!"
Players of People's Postcode Lottery have now supported Carefree with a mix of grant and loan funding totalling £250,000.
People's Postcode Lottery Ambassador Jeff Brazier visited Carefree to speak to carers who have already been able to benefit from the breaks.
Jeff said: "What Carefree is offering is much more than a break. It's a lifeline for these selfless people who have been caring behind closed doors, watching their own mental and physical health spiral. Signing up is easy, the quality of breaks are outstanding and the support from the hospitality industry to make this happen is truly commendable."
81 hotels are currently donating a portion of their unsold rooms to the charity on a rolling basis every month, with a number of new partners coming onboard to increase the geographic spread.
Carers can sign up on Carefree's website.