Grandma and grand daughter

Childcare bubbles - what are the rules?

This article was updated 26 November 2020

When the country moves out of its second lockdown on 2 December, we will once again get to grips with a bunch of new rules as different regions go into different tier levels.

Which tier level is your region in?

Thankfully schools, early years settings and childminder settings are remaining open across all three tiers.

But what about informal childcare arrangements?

Are those still allowed?

The government has clarified some of the rules around informal childcare which will be useful for parents to be aware of.


  • Childcare bubbles should not be used to facilitate mixing of households for other purposes - i.e. you can mix for childcare but not for socialising.
  • Where a child lives in two places the parents or guardians in those households may form a childcare bubble with one other household each.
  • Childcare bubbles are additional to support bubbles and do not have to be with the same household e.g. you could care for an elderly relative and a friend could care for your children.

What is a childcare bubble?

A childcare bubble is where one household links with one other household to provide informal childcare to a child or children aged 13 or under. They can provide the childcare in either or both of the homes from the 2 households. ‘Informal’ childcare means it is unpaid and unregistered.

All adults in both households must agree to this arrangement.

The childcare can be provided where necessary in any location – public or private, indoors or outdoors.

You can only use a childcare bubble for childcare – that is, where the child’s parent or regular carer is not present. You cannot use a childcare bubble to mix with another household for other reasons.

What do we do if my child/children live in more than one location?

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

Both you and the other parent can also form a childcare bubble with another household.

Similarly, if neither parent lives with your child (for example, because they are at boarding school), you and your child are permitted to leave home to see each other.

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

Yes. Childcare bubbles are separate from support bubbles.

If you’re eligible, you can form one childcare bubble and one support bubble with different households.

You must not meet socially with your support bubble and childcare bubble at the same time.

Childcare bubbles must be used exclusively for the purposes of childcare.

Support bubbles expanded

The government has confirmed that from 2 December, people can form a support bubble with another household, if at least one has: 

  • a child under 1 (regardless of how many other adults are in the household); or 

  • a child under 5 with a disability that requires continuous care (regardless of how many other adults are in the household)

This is in addition to the previous support bubble criteria.

Read: Guidance on childcare bubbles

Read: Local restriction tiers: what you need to know

Read: Covid-19 Winter Plan


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