Various parts of the country are moving into different restrictions under the Government's three-tier alert system designed to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Under the system Level 1 is Medium, Level 2 is High and Level 3 is Very High and each level places restrictions on household mixing, our daily activities and travel.
You can read more detail on what is allowed under each level here.
So what does this mean for childcare?
Can I still use childcare if my area moves to high or very high tier level?
Can you still send your children to nursery or have them looked after by a childminder if your area moves from medium to high or very high?
Can you still use a nanny or after-school nanny?
Can grandparents still help out?
Here is what the government guidance states.
Childcare - Level High and Very High
Even if your area moves from medium to high or very high, you can still continue to use nurseries, childminders, after-school clubs and nannies.
The restrictions on legal gatherings limits do not apply to:
- registered childcare
- education or training
- supervised activities provided for children
- wraparound care
- youth groups and activities
- children’s playgroups.
The following people can provide childcare support in private homes and gardens:
- registered childcare providers, including nannies
- people in your support bubble
- people in your childcare bubble.
So if grandparents or relatives are part of your childcare bubble - where someone in one household provides informal (unpaid and unregistered) childcare to a child aged 13 or under in another household - then they continue to look after your children if everyone is still happy and comfortable with that arrangement.
Childcare bubbles must always be between the same two households.
Friends or family who do not live with you and are not part of a support or childcare bubble must not visit your home to help with childcare.
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.
See guidance on working safely in other people’s homes.
'Education and childcare will remain fully open'
The government says where there are no local restrictions in place, education provision will continue to remain fully open to all, and these tiers do not apply.
But even in local areas where restrictions have been implemented for certain sectors it is important that education and childcare remain open.
The guidance says: 'We anticipate that education and childcare will usually remain fully open to all...Being in nursery, school and college is vital for children and young people’s education and wellbeing. It is also important that parents and carers are able to return to work, and having access to childcare will allow that to happen.
'There may be exceptional circumstances in which some level of restriction to education or childcare is required in a local area. In those situations, restrictions will be implemented in a phased manner – the key aim being to retain as much face-to-face education and access to childcare as possible. These ‘tiers of restriction’ will ensure that extensive limitations on education and childcare are a last resort, and that priority is given to vulnerable children and children of critical workers for face-to-face provision in all cases.'