Detailed guide: Making a childcare bubble with another household

Department Of Health

December 2
00:00 2020

If you live in a household with a child or children aged under 14, you can form a childcare bubble. This allows friends or family from one other household to provide informal childcare.

What a childcare bubble is

From 2 December, childcare bubbles are allowed in all tiers.

A childcare bubble is where one household links with one other household to provide informal childcare to a child or children under 14. All adults in both households must agree to this arrangement. Informal childcare means it is unpaid and unregistered.

Members of either household can provide childcare in a home or public place. This includes overnight care.

You can only have one childcare bubble with one other household. This means no household should be part of more than one childcare bubble.

You can only use a childcare bubble for childcare. You cannot use a childcare bubble to mix with another household for other reasons.

Changing a childcare bubble

From 2 December you may change your childcare bubble provided that:

  • 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 should treat your previous bubble as a separate household for 14 days before forming a new bubble. This means following the rules on meeting people from other households in the tier you are in.

If someone in your previous childcare bubble develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus up to 48 hours after members of the bubble last met, all members of the bubble must self-isolate for 14 days. You must not form a new bubble until you have completed your self-isolation.

Children turning 14

The childcare bubble only continues while there are any children aged under 14 within that bubble.

Once all children in a household are 14 or above, the childcare bubble arrangement must stop.

If your child lives in more than one location

You can mix indoors where necessary with the other parent to allow your child to move between homes.

A child moving between 2 parents who live separately is not counted as a childcare bubble. This means both you and the other parent can also form a childcare bubble with one other household.

Limit travelling long distances to make a childcare bubble

If possible, try to form a childcare bubble with a household that lives locally. This will help to prevent the virus spreading from an area where a higher number of people are infected with COVID-19.

If youre in a support bubble

Childcare bubbles are separate from support bubbles.

If youre eligible to form a childcare bubble and eligible to form a support bubble, you can form one childcare bubble and one support bubble with different households.

You must not meet socially with your childcare bubble, and avoid seeing members of your childcare and support bubbles at the same time. Childcare bubbles must be used exclusively for the purposes of childcare.

If someone in your childcare bubble develops coronavirus symptoms or tests positive

If anyone in your childcare bubble develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus, follow the stay at home guidance.

If you share custody of your child, and you and your childs other parent are in separate childcare bubbles, members of both bubbles should stay at home if someone in either household develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus.

This is critical to controlling the virus, as it will help to stop it spreading across multiple households.

If NHS Test and Trace contacts you or someone in your childcare bubble, you must follow their guidance.

If youre clinically extremely vulnerable

If youre clinically extremely vulnerable, you should reduce social contacts as much as possible. You will minimise your risk of infection if you limit all your contacts, particularly with people that you do not live with.

However, if you feel it is essential, you can maintain an existing childcare bubble, or form a new one as per the guidance on changing your bubble. This is a personal choice and should be balanced against the increased risk of infection.

Those defined, on medical grounds, as clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus are people with specific serious health conditions.

Other forms of childcare support

In addition to childcare bubbles, the following people can provide childcare support (including in private homes and gardens):

  • registered childcare providers
  • paid in-home childcare providers
  • people in your support bubble

Guidance on working safely in other peoples homes is available.

Early years settings and childminders remain open, and you can continue to use these settings as normal. Nannies are able to work in your home or any other setting.

You can also get informal help with childcare from people who do not live with you, and are not part of your support or childcare bubble, so long as you follow the rules on meeting other people which apply in your area.

For example, in an area which is in Tier 1, people from different households can gather indoors and outdoors in a group of up to 6people. This will allow for some informal childcare to take place.

Find out what the rules are in your area.

Christmas bubbles

Between 23 and 27 December you can form a Christmas bubble.

Christmas bubbles, support bubbles and childcare bubbles are all different things and have their own specific rules.

Between 23 and 27 December, you can continue to use a childcare bubble, but only if reasonably necessary for the purposes of childcare and where there are no reasonable alternatives.

If you want to meet socially with the other household in your childcare bubble, you should include them in your Christmas bubble. You and the other household in your childcare bubble would count as 2 households towards the 3 household limit for Christmas bubbles.

Published 6 November 2020
Last updated 2 December 2020 +show all updates
  1. Added guidance on how to switch your childcare bubble.

  2. First published.

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