This article was updated on 3rd of February 2021
Grandparents play a significant role in their grandchildren’s lives, often providing vital support to those children’s parents. The ongoing pandemic has unfortunately impacted upon the opportunity for grandchildren to spend time with their grandparents.
Fortunately, under the current rules and guidelines, it is possible for grandchildren to spend time with their grandparents through the use of “bubbles”.
There are principally two bubbles which allow children to spent time with their grandparents; support bubbles and childcare bubbles.
What is a support bubble, can I form one and how does it work?
Support bubbles can be formed between two households where any of the following criteria applies:
- one of those households only contains one adult;
- a household contains one adult and at least one child under the age of 18; or
- where a household has a child who was under 1 years of age as at 2nd December 2020
Once you form a support bubble you are considered as a single household. By forming a single household through the use of a support bubble you may have close contact with that household as if they were members of your own household. This includes caring for your grandchild or supporting either of their parents, and you may enter each other’s homes and stay overnight.
If the support bubble is formed by a household where there is child with separated parents then each parent may form a support bubble with one other household. For example, the mother of a child may form a support bubble with her parents and the father may do the same with his parents, which then would enable the grandchildren to spend time with both sets of grandparents.
What is a childcare bubble and how could this help me?
If you are unable to form a support bubble you may form a childcare bubble. If you have formed a support bubble you can form a childcare bubble with another household in addition to your support bubble.
A childcare bubble can be formed between two households to provide informal childcare place to a child under the age of 13 (rather than under 18 as provided for in support bubbles). The childcare which is provided by the other household can be provided in public, private, indoors (including each other’s homes) and outdoors but can only be used for the purposes of childcare and not household mixing.
If parents are separated, each parent, as with support bubbles, can form their own childcare bubble and in those circumstances, grandparents from both the maternal and paternal sides could potentially provide childcare to their grandchildren.
Unlike a support bubble, however, a childcare bubble is not considered as one household.
What if I cannot use bubbles to see my grandchildren?
If none of the bubbles are an option for you then you may be able to see your grandchild or grandchildren for your daily exercise, for example a walk, if they live locally to you.
You can meet one other person outside your household in a public place, although children under 5 do not count for this purpose. For example one grandparent may meet with their adult child and one grandchild if that child is under the age of 5. The exercise must take place locally to you and only take place once a day.
The rules and guidance are constantly reviewed and are complex so ensure you keep up to date.
This article was originally drafted by Gemma Davison, Associate Solicitor.
*Disclaimer: While everything has been done to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this article, it is a general guide only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought in relation to the particular facts of a given situation. The information is accurate at date of publication, 3rd of February 2021 .