I Choose

The Ministry is replacing Carer Support with a more flexible type of respite support called I Choose.

I Choose (also known as a ‘flexible respite budget’) will make it easier for you to have a break from your caring responsibilities.

I Choose is not ready yet. When it is ready, we will let you know all about the changes around the time of the disabled person's review or reassessment.

I Choose is a once or twice per year cash payment into your bank account. You will be able to use the money that we pay into your bank account to buy any respite support or service you want, as long as it gives you a break from your caring role.

There are new purchasing guidelines for I Choose that will make it easier for you to use the money to have a break.

The key changes between Carer Support and I Choose are:

  • you will be paid all the money you are allocated into your bank account
  • there will be no more Carer Support claim forms to fill in and post
  • you can work when using I Choose if you want to
  • the break you take can be any length you like (not a half day or full day like with Carer Support)
  • you and the person or organisation providing the respite support or service can agree how much the support will cost (it doesn’t have to be $38 or $76 like Carer Support)

I Choose - frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is I Choose or a ‘flexible respite budget’?

I Choose is a new type of disability support that can be used for ‘respite’ (having a break from caring for someone with disability).

I Choose is money that will be paid into an eligible family’s bank account once or twice per year. Families will be able to use the money to buy the respite supports and services that suit them best.

I Choose is also called a ‘flexible respite budget’. It is replacing the Carer Support Subsidy for DSS eligible clients.

What is I Choose for?

If you are a carer for a person with a disability, it’s important for you to have breaks from your caring responsibilities so you can reduce stress, ‘recharge your batteries’ and feel rested.

I Choose is money to help you have a planned, short break from caring for a person with disability.

A break can be for a few hours, a day, overnight or longer and may take place in or away from the family home.

Who can get I Choose?

To get I Choose, you will need to be the full-time carer of a person with a disability (who is eligible for Disability Support Services funding) and have an identified need for respite.

Most people who get disability Carer Support will be able to get I Choose instead.

If you don’t have Carer Support or any other type of respite support, you will need to have an assessment with a Needs Assessment and Service Coordination service (NASC) to find out if you can get I Choose.

To be eligible for Disability Support Services funding, the disabled person in your family will have a physical, intellectual, or sensory disability or autism (or a combination of these) which:

  • is likely to continue for at least 6 months
  • limits their ability to function independently, to the extent that ongoing support is required.

When can we get I Choose?

Most people will move to I Choose during 2019.


What will I be able to buy with I Choose?

I Choose aims to give you as much flexibility as possible over what you can buy. You can spend I Choose on any support or service that helps you have a break from caring for person with a disability. It’s ok to think ‘outside the box’ about your respite options – some ideas include:

  • asking a friend to hang out with the person with a disability in your home while you go out for a few hours
  • paying for a fun activity for the person with a disability
  • reimbursing a friend or family member for their costs when the person with a disability comes to stay overnight 
  • paying the travel costs for a friend or family member to come to stay and help out in the school holidays
  • employing or engaging a support worker to help you have a break.

You can use I Choose in the same way that you have been using Carer Support if you want to.

To check if a support or service you want to buy is allowed, you can refer to the Ministry’s Purchasing Guidelines.

You can buy a ‘mainstream’ support or service if this is appropriate for you (you don’t need to buy a disability-specific support or service).

Respite can give the disabled person a break from their normal routine. It can provide new experiences, a chance to be independent and opportunities to visit different places or make new friends.

Who can I pay with my flexible respite budget?

You will be able to use I Choose to pay people or organisations who help you to have a break from the caring role.

You will not be able to pay or compensate:

  • family members who are living with the disabled person
  • the disabled person’s parent or spouse

You can pay or compensate non-family relief carers who live at the same address as the disabled person such as an au pair or flatmate.

Will my flexible respite budget affect my income support or other benefit eligibility?


We have worked with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to make it clear that the disability support payments you get from the Ministry of Health are not income.

This means I Choose won’t be counted as income when determining your eligibility for a main benefit or supplementary or hardship assistance from Work and Income.  

Will I Choose be available for people who get DHB funded Carer Support (for mental health, long term chronic conditions or age-related support needs)? 

There is no change for Carer Support that is funded by District Health Boards (DHBs) at this stage.

DHBs are considering whether I Choose or something similar will work for people that get Carer Support for support needs related to mental health, long term conditions or age.

How can I find out more?

Please ring 0800 855 066 (select option 4 Disability Support Services) to talk to a person who can help you, or email respitestrategy@moh.govt.nz.


Back to top