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Grandparents and looking after grandchildren during coronavirus

coronavirus childcare

Updated 23rd February 2020


  • The government has revealed a cautious roadmap out of lockdown. Here's what our users think. 
  • Staggered return to school for children in Scotland.
  • Almost 18 million people in the UK have had their first dose of the vaccine. You can track the total here.

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When will grandparents be able to see their grandchildren?

The government's announcement has been great news for families who are desperate to see their loved ones. From the 29th March it's been confirmed that we will be able to meet outside (including in our own gardens) with another household or within the 'rule of six' guidelines. 

As long as everything goes according to plan, from the 17th May two households or up to six people will be able to meet indoors, and groups of up to 30 will be able to meet up outdoors. 

And from 21st June, all limits on social contact will be removed. 


Are grandparents allowed to help with childcare?

With vaccines swiftly being rolled out across the country, how does the current lockdown situation look for families? Are grandparents allowed to look after their grandchildren?

Although many families are still restricted from mixing unless they are part of a support bubble (see below) there are some exceptions that do allow for childcare arrangements. This means that if grandparents have formed a childcare support bubble with their grandchildren's household, then yes, they are able to babysit them. It is worth noting though that grandparents are only able to bubble with one household, so they can not look after grandchildren from another household too. See below for advice on changing your childcare bubble. For struggling parents who rely upon grandparents for childcare so that they can work, this has been a welcome relief. 


Can grandparents look after grandchildren after they've had the vaccine?

Many grandparents who have been anxious about helping out with childcare, may be wondering if it's safe to do so now they've had the vaccine. But unfortunately, unless they are in a childcare bubble, this is not recommended. The advice from the government and the NHS states that even if you have had your first dose of the vaccine, for longer lasting protection you need to have had the second one. Even then, the NHS recommends social distancing as you are still at risk of passing it on to others. So, unless you are in a childcare bubble (see below) then it's not yet recommended for grandparents to babysit their grandchildren. 


What is a childcare bubble?

According to the government website, "Childcare bubbles are to be used to provide childcare only, and not for the purposes of different households mixing where they are otherwise not allowed to do so." So as grandparents, if you look after your grandchildren, providing what the government refers to as 'informal childcare', then you are able to see your grandchildren for that purpose. This does not apply to households where the youngest child is 14 or over. And it also does not mean that you can meet with them for other social occasions. See the government website for more information on childcare bubbles.


What is a support bubble for grandparents?

At the moment, people who live on their own are able to form a bubble and stay overnight with one other household. This allows single grandparents to see their extended family and grandchildren. The government says these measures are part of an effort to alleviate loneliness for those who are isolated. However, as this only applies to single-adult households, it excludes grandparents who are in a couple (unless their adult child lives in a single-adult household).


Are you able to be in both a childcare bubble and a support bubble?

Yes. Government guidelines state that you are allowed to be part of a support bubble as well as a childcare bubble. It does however make sense to limit your number of contacts, and therefore the risk of cross-infection, as much as possible. 


Am I allowed to change my childcare bubbles?

Yes. However, you will need to have a 10 day break in between your move, treating your previous bubble as a separate household. This means that grandparents will be unable to care for one set of grandchildren one day and then another set from a separate family the next day. 


Top conversations today


Can grandparents in Scotland provide childcare?

Yes. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that people are allowed to provide childcare "where absolutely necessary". However, it is advised that children should rather go to the grandparent's home, rather than grandparents to the child's house, in order to look after them. The Scottish government's parent portal ParentClub gives more detail on the restrictions. 


Can grandparents in Wales provide childcare?

Informal childcare such as that provided by grandparent and other family members or friends is allowed, although it's suggested that "this form of childcare should only be used when no other methods are available". 

Wales is currently in lockdown (or alert level 4). This means:

  • people must stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  • people must not visit other households, or meet other people they do not live with
  • many types of businesses are required to close

For more information on seeing other people, see this section of Welsh government website


I'm vulnerable - should I shield from my family?

Yes, PM Boris Johnson has announced that if you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should take the following precautions:  

  • stay at home at all time unless for medical appointments or exercise
  • keep contact with others to a minimum
  • wash hands regularly and avoid touching your face
  • keep a 2m distance between others in your household, especially if they are displaying symptoms or self-isolating
  • avoid shops if possible and rather make use of supermarket deliveries

In the meantime, the risk of loneliness and damage to mental health from these restrictions can not be underestimated so please do read over these loneliness resources if you are feeling particularly frustrated or worried about how lockdown has affected you. If you fancy some virtual company, do join in our conversations, particularly Soop's Kitchen or look out for our daily Good Morning threads.  



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Is it safe for grandparents to provide childcare during the coronavirus pandemic?

There is concern on the Gransnet forums about the health risks of providing childcare. They have commented:

  • "I would love to get back into regular childcare (guidelines permitting) but I'm nervous about the risks we run."
  • "The fact is, regardless of how fit, active, otherwise healthy, the older one is, the more depleted one's immune system." welbeck


What about grandparents who are over 70 or are shielding?

The government has recently added an extra 1.7m vulnerable people to the shielding list. Many of these people have not yet been vaccinated and will be prioritised by their GPs in coming days.  The government has assessed that shielding is currently necessary for those who are clinically vulnerable. Generally speaking, extra precautions are advised for those who are most vulnerable. You can find out more about shielding on this page of the government website. 


How do I maintain the relationship with my grandchildren if isolated?

With 44% of those we surveyed saying that they are worried about the relationship between themselves and their grandchildren during lockdown, it's clear grandparenting has never been so hard. While we all understand the need to practise social distancing during this pandemic, we also know how important it is to keep in touch with friends and family. With many of us falling within the ‘high-risk’ category, this time can be particularly difficult, especially if you’re usually the one looking after the grandchildren while their parents are working. Being apart from them for a prolonged period of time, or not being able to cuddle them when we do see them in real life, can be very difficult.

But not to worry, as our users have found, there are still ways to help out and stay connected to your grandchildren, without putting ourselves - or them - at risk.

How to use technology to keep in touch with family

grandparents and grandchildren coronavirus video calling

If you aren't able to be there in real life, that's not to say you can't find other, creative ways to keep the bond with your grandchildren. 


Eight ways to entertain grandchildren from a distance

Whether it's reading books, telling stories, sharing jokes, watching TV 'together' at the same time or doing virtual quizzes, there are lots of things you can do to help stay connected. Some great ideas from our users include:

1) Set up a Nana Deliveroo service

"I prepare their supper twice a week and provide a Nana Deliveroo service...dropped at the doorstep. This way they engage with me about what they might like via WhatsApp." 

2) Talk books

"The primary school-age grandchildren are prolific readers and we enjoy chatting about what they're reading and which books they'd like to read next."

3) Encourage budding artists

"They post me their drawings. I put them on the wall and show them my 'gallery' when we FaceTime." 

4) Set them a challenge

I have made a video for my grandson showing him how to make a  paper aeroplane. It'll keep him out of his mum's hair for 8 minutes."

5) Let them set you a challenge

"My grandchildren have made videos of them doing Joe Wicks' videos to motivate me to exercise. The chitchat and cries of, 'You can do it, Grandma!' make me laugh!"

6) Take them virtual shopping

I FaceTime my grandchildren with a pretend virtual shop where I place certain things in their sight for them to 'buy'. For example I might have chocolate biscuits for sale. I tell them the cost and help them do some mental arithmetic. We have great fun!"

7) Competitive playdough sculpting

"If you are able to get hold of something like play-doh and our grandchild has some, you could challenge one another to copy what each of you are making over a video call. 

8) Channel your inner Susie Dent

"I send them a Word of the Day via Whatsapp. I choose daft words that they will enjoy repeating, but which will hopefully add to their vocabulary at the same time. It's good for me too - browsing the dictionary every day for new words is very educational

Take a look at our forums for more on this topic:

Disclaimer: The health information on our pages is only intended as an informal guide and should not be treated as a substitute for medical advice. Gransnet would urge you to consult the NHS coronavirus website if you are concerned you or someone you know has the disease.


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