These are the rules for forming a childcare bubble in England during lockdown

England has entered a new lockdown, as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new restrictions on Monday 4 January amid the spread of the new, more transmissible strain of the virus.

The “stay at home” message has been reintroduced, and schools will also close.

However, you are still able to form a childcare bubble during the lockdown if you live with children who are under 14.

Here’s everything you need to know about childcare bubbles and how you can make one.

What is a childcare bubble?

A childcare bubble is where one household links with another household to provide informal childcare, according to the government.

Anyone who lives with children under 14 can form one, but all adults in both households must agree to the arrangement. 

Childcare can either be provided inside the home or in a public place, and the arrangement also includes overnight care.

The government advises that childcare bubbles are formed with another household that lives locally, to prevent the virus spreading through different areas.

A childcare bubble is also different to a support bubble, and being in this arrangement does not stop you from making a support bubble.

How many childcare bubbles can I have?

You are only able to form one childcare bubble with one other household - no household should be part of another childcare bubble arrangement.

A childcare bubble should also only be used for childcare, and not mixing with another household for other reasons. 

Once all children are over the age of 14, the bubble arrangement must stop.

What if my child lives in more than one household?

It’s not a problem if your child moves between two parents who live separately - this is not counted as a childcare bubble.

Both you, and the other parent, are able to form a childcare bubble with one other household.

You can still mix indoors with the other parent as your child moves between homes. 

Can I change a childcare bubble? 

The government amended its guidance from 2 December to allow people to change their childcare bubble arrangements.

However, there are certain rules:

  • At least one person in the proposed new childcare bubble is under the age of 14
  • Neither household is part of a separate childcare bubble which they intend to remain a part of

If you decide to change your childcare bubble, you need to treat your previous bubble as a separate household for 10 days before you form a new one.

During the 10-day period, you should not provide childcare and should follow the lockdown rules by not meeting people from other households indoors or outdoors. 

What is a support bubble?

Support bubbles differ from childcare bubbles.

You are still able to form a support bubble during the nationwide lockdown, but there are certain rules in place.

A support bubble links two households to provide much-needed relief from loneliness and isolation during the pandemic.

Once a suport bubble is formed, members count as one household and you can behave as if that were the case, leaving your home to visit them and staying overnight.

You can form a support bubble with another household of any size, depending on the following:

  • You live by yourself – even if carers visit you to provide support
  • You are the only adult in your household who does not need continuous care as a result of a disability
  • Your household includes a child who is under the age of one 
  • Your household includes a child with a disability who requires continuous care and is under the age of 5
  • You are aged 16 or 17 living with others of the same age and without any adults
  • You are a single adult living with one or more children who are under the age of 18

You cannot form a support bubble with a household that is part of another support bubble, and it is also recommended that you form one with a local household.