Last reviewed 24 September 2020

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that informal childcare will be allowed to continue in areas of England under local lockdown to allow parents to keep working.

The announcement is an exemption on the ban on interhousehold mixing in lockdown areas to enable childcare for under-14s and care for vulnerable adults to continue.

Children under 14 will be able to be cared for by individuals outside of their immediate household as part of a care bubble as long as arrangements are part of a consistent childcare relationship.

Interhousehold mixing is currently banned in some areas under local restrictions, including parts of the North West, North East, and Bolton and Leicester. From Tuesday 22 September care bubbles will be able to form in areas of intervention, to allow families to share caring responsibilities with another household.

The announcement recognises that the restriction of interhousehold mixing in areas of local intervention could cause hardship for families, and may affect the ability of essential workers, such as NHS front line staff, to do their job.

Approximately a third of children in England aged birth to four used informal childcare in 2019. The new exemption means that a relative or friend can now care for a child or vulnerable adult from a different household, as well as the formal childcare provided by registered childcare professionals.

This exemption will come into force for all areas under current restrictions that ban household mixing, and all future areas. Exemptions for registered childcare already exists, with the latest announcement extending to informal childcare arrangements.

Mr Hancock told MPs in the House of Commons:

"I've heard the concerns about the impact of local action on childcare arrangements. For many, informal childcare arrangements are a lifeline, without which they couldn't do their jobs.”

"So, today I'm able to announce a new exemption for looking after children under the age of 14 or vulnerable adults where that is necessary for caring purposes.”

"This covers both formal and informal arrangements. It does not allow for play-dates or parties, but it does mean that a consistent childcare relationship that is vital for somebody to get to work is allowed.”