Hospitality Industry Unites to Give Unpaid Carers a Break

Five of the UK’s largest independent hotel chains have stepped forward to join charity tech start-up, Carefree, in its mission to provide every full-time unpaid carer with access to an annual break.

Hotel partners, including Bespoke Hotels, Cycas Hospitality, Sleeperz, The QHotels Collection and Village Hotels, have pledged to donate a portion of their unsold rooms to the charity on a rolling basis, becoming a ‘Carefree Breakmaker’.

Carefree is a charity start-up that transforms vacant accommodation into breaks for full-time unpaid carers. There are an estimated 8.8 million unpaid carers in the UK who provide 80% of home care, yet are rarely recognised for their frontline role and lack access to the same support as NHS staff or paid care home workers.

In a joint statement, the hotel partners said: “Through the pandemic, unpaid carers worked tirelessly to provide the invisible backbone of our health and social care system and they need time off. Together we can change how our society reinvests in the people that look after our most vulnerable.”

According to State of Caring 2021 report released by Carers UK on 2 Nov, Unpaid carers saved the UK economy £193 billion a year during the pandemic – outstripping the cost of the NHS. Carefree aims to provide support for the carers who are at risk of burn out, by offering a simple way to help them re-charge so they can continue their vital role.

Of carers using Carefree, 92% reported that they couldn’t have accessed a break without the charity’s support, which aims to deliver 4000 breaks by early 2022 and mobilise tens of thousands more as new hospitality partners join.

“The process is so easy to organise the break. You just need to say when you want to go and you go,” said Kirsty, who has cared for her two disabled children for 32 years and recently took a break with Carefree.

Carefree CEO, Charlotte Newman, who believes that designing effective solutions for social care and carers should be a society-wide effort said: “Being able to rest is an essential part of what it means to be human.

“Only through the collective commitment of people, partnerships and technology working together can we build a truly sustainable, national way for carers in need of a break to access time off. Every Carefree Breakmaker, whether they are someone referring a carer, donating a break or providing a part of our tech infrastructure to distribute the stays, is a piece in the puzzle of how we’ll make that possible.”

Robin Sheppard, President of Bespoke Hotels, which has supported the charity since 2018 said: “We always knew that with the right tech solution we could empower the hospitality industry to tackle what has been an entrenched social issue and set a new standard for how unpaid carers are recognised and supported to carry out their hugely difficult role.”

Neetu Mistry, Chief Commercial Officer of Cycas Hospitality, said: “With Carefree, we’re not just ‘building back better’, we’re re-defining what it means to be a purpose-driven business within the hospitality industry.”

Carefree trustee and Sleeperz CEO, David Myers said: “In the UK alone, there are 50,000 accommodation providers. If every one of those gave a break once a week that would be sufficient for 3 million unpaid carers to get a break.”

Philip Gardner, Commercial Director for The QHotels Collection, said: “We are incredibly proud to support all frontline staff during this continued Covid challenge and have been working with carers and NHS staff for the past two years to say thank you, whereby we gifted 1,000 free nights for their amazing contributions during the pandemic.

This next phase of our gifting programme recognises the incredible work that carers throughout the UK are involved in. They are the unsung heroes who give their support to others without thought of reward. We are delighted that we can offer some much-needed down time to their lives with complimentary stays at our hotels and resorts. We really believe in giving something back and are delighted to be supporting the Carefree charity and very much look forward to welcoming these guests in the very near future.”

Gary Davis, CEO of Village Hotels said: “At Village, we are committed to having a positive impact on the communities we operate in, both environmentally and socially. Initiatives such as this fit perfectly with our Village Green commitment, enabling us to make a real difference to the wellbeing of carers whose own mental and physical health is so often sacrificed as part of their caring role.”