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Support and childcare bubbles - what are the rules?

childcare bubbles and support bubblesWith coronavirus restrictions starting to ease in England over the coming months, many grandparents and older people will be thinking about when they can be reunited with their family and friends again, and whether they're eligible to form a support bubble. We know from our forums that many of you have questions about 'bubbles' and who is allowed one, so here's what you need to know about the rules and how they affect you.

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Coronavirus rules - can I form a bubble? 

"I am single and live alone. No extended family. I feel ill with this lockdown... I feel so disconnected from the world, even from myself a bit now."

With restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 having been part of our lives for over a year now, it's been an extremely challenging time - particularly for those who live alone. To support people at a higher risk of isolation because of the rules, people in single households are allowed to form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household to help them feel less isolated. The best part? If you're in a support bubble you don't have to distance from the other people in it and you can also stay over at their house - which, given the current lack of travel, might just feel like a luxury getaway. 

We know that so many grandparents provided childcare pre-Covid, and now that schools in England have fully reopened, many parents will be relying on 'the grandparent army' once again to do the school run and look after the little ones. Fortunately, ‘childcare bubbles’ are also allowed to provide support to households that have children under the age of 14, but they must only be for the purpose of childcare (which might fortunately save you from another viewing of Bing). 

As England begins to progressively ease restrictions at the end of March, it's essential that the rules surrounding bubbles, and who can form them, are followed and not misused, to keep Covid rates and hospitalisations low. Read on for what you can and can't do in each bubble, and information on who can form one.


What is a support bubble?

can i form a support bubble

Support bubbles are essentially a 'network' which links one individual with one other household.

Once someone is in a support bubble they are joined as one ‘household’ and can stay overnight in each other's homes, visit outdoor places together and don't have to social distance from each other, meaning hugs are on the cards (remember those?).

Remember that bubbles must be exclusive so choose yours wisely, as once someone has made contact with another household, they cannot meet with a different household.

If you do decide to change your support bubble, you should treat the previous bubble as a separate household for 10 days before forming a new bubble.

Don't forget though, not everyone can form a support bubble - you need to meet certain eligibility rules to have one. 


Who can form a support bubble? 

Individuals can form a support bubble with another household of any size if they:

  • live by themselves
  • are the only adult in the household
  • are aged 16 or 17 living with others of the same age and without any adults
  • are a single adult living with one or more children who are under the age of 18
  • are a single adult carer – this means households where there is one adult carer and anyone else living within the household has a disability and requires continuous care
  • Have a child under 5 with a disability that requires continuous care (regardless of how many other adults are in the household)


Gransnetters say: 

"I live alone and I'm fine. I work from home three days a week and so those are days of focus and concentration. I'm lucky enough to have my son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild very close by and as they're my bubble, nothing much has changed in the regularity of my seeing them."

"My two cats and I have lived alone since my dear husband died four and a half years ago....I have regular phone calls with my daughter and close friends and have also bubbled with my sister, who also lives alone and lives nearby."

"I’m in a bubble with one daughter and my granddaughter so we can meet up which really helps."

"Was very wary at first of a bubble. Then thought how many times I have woken in the middle of the night with massive panic attacks and feeling so lost and alone. So as my son and daughter-in-law both use PPE at work, we started our bubble yesterday as they both had the day off. They came to mine as I do not drive. Very quick hugs with grandchildren, and as my chairs are spread out I guess you can say we were being fairly safe. I had the best night's sleep for ages last night and feel a lot brighter today just having had company."

What is a childcare bubble? 

can i form a childcare bubble

A childcare bubble is where one household links with friends OR family from another household to provide childcare and support to children under 14. As many grandparents regularly provide childcare for their grandkids, these bubbles can be essential for families struggling to balance work with childcare arrangements during the pandemic.

However, childcare bubbles should be used for essential childcare purposes only and should not be used for social purposes. So sadly this means that you can't pop round and catch up with a cuppa while the kids are playing. This also means that parents shouldn't hang around when dropping them off at yours, or when you collect them either.

You can only be part of one childcare bubble too, so if a child has two sets of grandparents, each who live together in a pair, the child’s household can only form a childcare bubble with one set of grandparents. So essentially the parents have to choose which set of grandparents will be in their childcare bubble... eek!

It's also important that if you are doing the school run that you distance from others and don't congregate at the school gates for a chat or share a car journey with others outside your bubble. When providing childcare, you shouldn't arrange playdates or mix with other children in the playground, even if they are in a school bubble.


Who can form a childcare bubble? 

People can form a childcare bubble if:

  • they live in a household with anyone aged under 14 and need childcare support
  • Parent/s can only have one childcare bubble with one other household. No household should be part of more than one childcare bubble.
  • People can only use a childcare bubble for childcare.

Gransnetters say:

"I was in a childcare bubble with my daughter and the rules are specific, it has to be when the childcare is needed for them to work and strictly no socialising. My daughter dropped off at the door and collected from the door."

"We’ve formed a childcare bubble with our son and daughter-in-law to enable us to look after our two grandchildren two days each week to enable their parents to continue working."

"I am helping with childcare for my grandchildren two days a week. Hand washing during the day is important as is the bottle of sanitiser when we take [the youngest] out. I try to keep a window ajar in the living room for airflow. Toys are sprayed with disinfectant after use and I use a fabric disinfectant spray on throws and cushions after the grandchildren have left. After use the toilet area gets a quick spray too each time.

"The grandchildren are collected at the door and parents don't enter the house. It all sounds very clinical but we're just trying our best to keep one another as safe as we can. Parents use sanitiser on grandchildren before they enter my home and also before they go home in the family car."


Can you have a support bubble and childcare bubble at the same time?

"Does anyone know if people in a support bubble (i.e a family linked with a single adult) can also have a childcare bubble? I presumed not , but today I read today that a childcare bubble is not the same as a support bubble."

Yes, you can have both a support bubble and childcare bubble at the same time, but only if you meet the conditions that make you eligible to form each one.


coronavirus bubbles

For more on bubbles, please visit the government website here


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