No limit on informal childcare bubble size during second lockdown

Nicole Weinstein
Thursday, November 5, 2020

There will be no limit to the number of children and adults in informal childcare bubbles for children under 13, under lockdown rules in England that come into force today.

Grandparents can be part of a child's 'childcare bubble', but it must always be the same grandparents
Grandparents can be part of a child's 'childcare bubble', but it must always be the same grandparents

In response to question from Nursery World, a Department for Education spokesperson has confirmed that 'there is no size limit on childcare bubbles just like there is no size limit on support bubbles which is why a limit is not included.'

The Government has said that families can support each other with informal childcare for children under the age of 13.

New National Restrictions from 5 November, published by the Cabinet Office, states that parents are able to form a ‘childcare bubble’ with one other household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is 13 or under.

A childcare bubble is different to a support bubble, which allows a single-person household to meet and socialise with another household of any size.

A childcare bubble is where someone in one household - for example a friend or relative - provides informal (unpaid and unregistered) childcare to a child aged 13 or under in another household.

The Independent reported (4 November) that parents can only form one childcare bubble. In other words, the bubble must always be between the same two households, and that grandparents can be part of a family’s ‘childcare bubble’, but it must always be the same set of grandparents.

The Government has previously allowed informal childcare to continue, with health secretary Matt Hancock announcing on 21 September a ‘provision for those looking after children under the age of 14’.

Referring to interhousehold mixing restrictions in local areas of intervention at the time, Mr Hancock said that childcare would be exempt.

He said, ‘I know how vital all types of childcare are for family life. Whether a friend, relative, or a professional carer, it is essential that our children or dependents are well looked after and loved.

‘I have listened to concerns that have been raised around the ban on interhousehold mixing in place for local areas of intervention, and have now introduced a provision for those looking after children under the age of 14 …I truly sympathise with everyone who lost those vital extra hands to care for a child or loved one, and I hope that this eases their burden.’

Meeting others

When it comes to meeting other people safely, the new guidance states that you can exercise or meet in a public, outdoors space with people you live with, your support bubble (or as part of a childcare bubble), or with one other person.

Children under five years, as well as disabled people dependent on round-the-clock care are not counted towards the limit on two people meeting outside.

Also, babies and toddlers are not counted in the 15-person limit for support groups for parents.

Health minister Nadine Dorries tweeted earlier today, ‘I am happy to let all mums and dads know that from Thursday 5 November, children under school age will be exempt from the 15-person limit on support groups. This change will ensure that up to 15 parents can attend a support group with their babies. And that valuable parent-led baby support provided by these groups is not disrupted during the November restrictions.’

Registered childcare and children’s activities that are ‘necessary to allow parents/carers to work, seek work, or undertake education or training’ are listed as one of the areas that parents can leave the home for. However, this does not include extracurricular classes such as music or drama tuition.

When it comes to wraparound care – breakfast and after-school clubs – they will still be open for the purpose of enabling parents to work and for ‘respite care’.

The guidance states, ‘You can access other childcare activities (including wraparound care) where reasonably necessary to enable parents to work, seek work, attend education or training, or for the purposes of respite care for carers.’

Unlike in the first lockdown, playgrounds will also remain open.

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