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Detailed guide: Making a support bubble with another household

Department Of Health

December 2
00:00 2020

What a support bubble is

A support bubble is a support network which links 2 households. You have to meet certain criteria to form a support bubble. This means not everyone will be able to form a support bubble.

Once youre in a support bubble, you can think of yourself as being in one household. It means you can have close contact with the other household in your bubble as if they were members of your own household. This means you do not need to maintain social distance with people in your support bubble.

You should continue to follow social distancing guidance with people outside of your household or support bubble. This is critical to keeping you, your family and friends as safe as possible.

Who can make a support bubble

Not everybody can form a support bubble. However on 2 December the rules changed to widen eligibility for forming a support bubble.

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

  • 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 or was under that age on 2 December 2020
  • your household includes a child with a disability who requires continuous care and is under the age of 5, or was under that age on 2 December 2020
  • you are a child aged 16 or over living alone or with other children and without any adults
  • you are a single adult living with one or more children who are under the age of 18 or were under that age on 12 June 2020

You should not form a support bubble with a household that is part of another support bubble.

If you share custody of your child with someone you do not live with

If you share custody of a child with someone you do not live with, the child can move freely between both parents households.

If you meet one of the above criteria, you may also form a support bubble.

If you have children under 14

You may be able to form a childcare bubble if you have a child who is under 14. This is 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 must avoid seeing members of your childcare and support bubbles at the same time. Childcare bubbles must be used exclusively for the purposes of childcare.

Limit travelling far to make a support bubble

The government recommends that you form a support bubble with a household that lives locally wherever possible. This will help to prevent the virus spreading from an area where there might be a higher rate of infection.

Changing your support bubble

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

  • your household, or the one you intend to form a new support bubble with, meets at least one of the criteria under Who can make a support bubble
  • the other household is not already part of a support bubble which they intend to remain a part of

If you decide to change your support 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 support 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.

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

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

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

If NHS Test and Trace contacts someone in your support bubble

If NHS Test and Trace contacts you or someone in your support bubble, you should 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 for your physical or mental health, you can maintain an existing support bubble, or form a new one as per the guidance on changing your support 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.

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.

Support bubbles count as one household towards the 3-household limit. However, the more people you see, the more likely it is that you will catch or spread coronavirus (COVID-19). You and the other people in your Christmas bubble need to consider these risks carefully before agreeing to form a bubble.

You should consider ways to celebrate Christmas in other ways, such as the use of technology and meeting outdoors, without bringing households together or travelling between different parts of the country.

Published 9 September 2020
Last updated 2 December 2020 +show all updates
  1. Amended the eligibility criteria for a support bubble and added guidance on how to switch your support bubble.

  2. Amended the definition of 'what a support bubble is'. Added information about childcare bubbles. Added guidance about forming or maintaining a support bubble if you're clinically extremely vulnerable.

  3. Updated the guidance to say that support bubbles cannot be changed.

  4. First published.

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