Released on: 06 January 2021

The announcement of a new national lockdown for England this week has left many parents with questions and concerns.

At NCT, we have been following details from the Prime Minister’s announcements and the subsequent legislation, especially where these make changes from previous arrangements relevant to families.

We believe the following are the key messages:
• Parents are eligible to form a support bubble, if they have a child aged under one year (on 2 December 2020) or a child under 5 with a disability needing continuous care or if they are a single parent with a child under 18 (on 12 June 2020).
• Parents are eligible to form a childcare bubble, if they live in a household with anyone aged under 14. This allows friends or family from one other household to provide informal childcare.
• Everyone is allowed to leave their home to take exercise and may meet one person from another household. When meeting one other person for exercise outdoors, under 5s don't count - so a parent with their baby or young child/ren can meet another parent with one or more under-five children.
• Children may move between parents' households where parents do not live together but there is shared custody.
• Meeting a birth partner who does not live in the same household is one of the circumstances which means you can meet in a larger group.

One of the key changes is that people are permitted to meet with one other person from another household in an outdoor public place for the purposes of exercise. Meeting for the purpose of ‘open air recreation’ is no longer permitted. We understand this to mean that one parent with a baby or child under five can meet another parent with a baby or child under five to go for a walk or another form of exercise, but not for any other purposes.

Frustratingly the exception made for under 5s not to count when you are meeting one person from another household for exercise did not appear in the public guidance at first. This caused a huge amount of confusion and we called on the Government to clarify this point within the public guidance. It has now been updated to make clear that children under 5, and up to 2 carers for a person with a disability who needs continuous care, are not counted towards the gatherings limits for exercising outside.

We are also busy reviewing details of the national lockdown in Scotland and changes in Northern Ireland, and will update our information across all four nations as soon as we can.

We are deeply aware of the benefits of support groups for parents and its importance in maintaining mental wellbeing. We are therefore pleased that many of our in-person support services can continue to provide essential support to parents during this time, alongside our digital content and online support.

Thank you to all the parents, volunteers, practitioners and staff helping to keep everyone safe and supported.

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