Find out how you can socialise with others online and even join Walk & Talks in your local area, as well as what the latest government restrictions mean for you.
What are the restrictions at the moment?
Restrictions are currently in place across all of the four nations, with varying limits on what you can and can't do. Below is a brief summary.
In England, some limitations have been lifted from 29 March. You may now meet outdoors in groups of up to six people from different households, or a group of any size from two households. Babies and children are included in the group of six. Formally-organised parent and child groups of up to 15 can take place, with children under five not counted in the number. Bear in mind though that this does not include informal meet-ups with friends. Read more about what's changed.
For Wales, 'Stay Local' restrictions within the country were lifted on 27 March. Up to six people from two households are now able to socialise outdoors, with children under 11 not counting in the numbers. However, the two-household rule means that six adults and their babies from different households cannot meet.
As of 27 February, the Welsh government had made the welcome announcement that parents with a baby under one year old would be able to form a bubble with another household. However, a support bubble does not count as one household – so you can't meet anyone else at the same time as your support bubble. Find out more about the lockdown rules in Wales.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also announced an easing of restrictions. Part of this easing is that up to four adults from two households will now be able to meet outside with children under 12. From 2 April, the 'Stay at Home' message will change to 'Stay Local.' In Northern Ireland, lockdown will remain in place until 1 April although some primary school children started going back from 8 March.
These are the key messages for the current English lockdown:
• 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.
• The rule of six is now in place outdoors, with babies and children counted in the numbers. Two households of any size are now also allowed to meet outdoors.
• 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.
Pregnant women remain in the clinically vulnerable group, advised to be especially careful to follow the guidance and minimise contact with others. Our antenatal courses remain online, ensuring a safe, social and interactive experience.
The Prime Minister announced that 15-min rapid Covid-19 tests will be prioritised for maternity to ensure women don’t give birth alone. We’ll share more information on this when we know more.
We welcome the new guidance from NHS England, issued on 15 December, that confirms 'that a woman should have access to support from a person of her choosing at all stages on her maternity journey.' This makes the case for partners to be allowed to attend antenatal scans, labour and postnatal wards, because at the moment the restrictions are variable. This was campaigned for by birthrights. See the guidance from NHS England here.
Since the beginning of lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions, we’ve been campaigning for the needs of new and expectant parents to be recognised. Read about how we're delivering our services under the restrictions.
Walk & Talk groups
We're pleased to say that in England, Wales and Scotland, Walk & Talk groups are running. However, as these are volunteer-led, we appreciate some volunteers may not be in a position to run the walks at the moment, or feel comfortable doing so. Please check your local NCT Facebook page to see if any walks are running near you. Or, if you'd like to set one up yourself, see here.
In Wales and Northern Ireland, Walk & Talk groups are unable to restart at the moment, but we will update you if this changes.
Contactless loan or hire service
Some local NCT groups provide a contactless loan or hire service of items that can help with your parenting choices. These may be cloth nappy libraries, baby-carrying or sling libraries, welly libraries or valley cushion loans. You can ask at your local branch if they have this service.
Our Baby Bundles volunteers are also helping parents in difficult circumstances by providing essential items to parents in need. We're delighted to say that in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland both these services are able to continue.
Virtual groups and activities
Visit our local activities and meet-ups page and enter your postcode to search for your local NCT group. You’ll also be able to see all the activities and meet ups happening in your area every week.
Feeding support line
If you need information, support or just someone to talk to, give one of our trained breastfeeding counsellors a call on 0300 330 0700 (option 1). The line is open every day from 8am to midnight, including bank holidays.