Scotland Leads the Way in Social Tourism for Unpaid Carers

Professor Lynn Minnaert speaking at public engagement event

Did you know that Scotland is a leading innovator in social tourism for unpaid carers?

While unpaid carers have access to short breaks across the UK, Scotland was the first to harness Corporate Social Responsibility in the hospitality and tourism sectors in its creative ‘social franchise’ model.

Respitality, a combination of the words ‘respite’ and ‘hospitality’, is an initiative co-ordinated by the non-profit organisation Shared Care Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government. It provides free short breaks for unpaid carers in Scotland by connecting carers’ organisations with hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses who are willing to donate a break free of charge. Examples of breaks are overnights stays, restaurant meals, massages and wellness treatments, match tickets etc.

Professor Lynn Minnaert of Edinburgh Napier University’s Business School worked with Respitality on a stakeholder study of the model: this study sought input from unpaid carers, the carer centre workers who support them, and the hospitality and tourism businesses who donate to Respitality. She conducted 30 interviews with respondents across all three categories, and the research culminated in a public engagement ‘showcase’ event on June 8th in Glasgow.

The research findings highlight the vital importance of short breaks for carers. The breaks provide a temporary relief from the caring routine, and provide carers with an opportunity to rest, try new activities, strengthen social ties and increase their well-being. Breaks allow carers to return to the caring role with renewed energy and can act as a catalyst to other support services that are offered. In their interviews, the carers also bring up barriers that may prevent people from taking a break, including the unpredictability of their lives, financial worries and challenges with mental health.

Carer centre workers also highlight the value of the breaks and emphasise the level of support they often provide in communicating, matching, and planning the breaks. While some carer centres rely on the national Respitality offer, the majority source their own breaks from local businesses, and carer centre workers comment that soliciting donations can be a daunting task at first. However, many also report feeling a sense of joy and pride when they are successful. They recommend using social media and local knowledge and networks to increase the level of interest from businesses.

Of the donors who were interviewed, over half have a personal connection to caring, having been a carer themselves or having a friend or family member who is. The donors emphasise the importance of offering the same quality experience to Respitality guests as paying guests receive, and some even include little extras in their donation (for example, a foundation associated with a major football club offers not only match tickets, but also food vouchers that can be used in the stadium). While their motivations for donating are altruistic, there are examples when carers have left positive online reviews or given word-of-mouth recommendations that benefit the business.

The study resulted in recommendations around keeping administrative services simple, providing training to carer centre workers around sourcing donations, and offering further networking opportunities for Respitality stakeholders. Through research projects like these, the Tourism, Hospitality and Events team at Edinburgh Napier University create real impact, benefiting industry and students alike.