Covid 19 – What does this mean for Child Arrangements? UPDATED (May 2021)

UPDATED 18th May 2021 – Lifting of restrictions and “hugs”


The Government are forging ahead with the lifting of restrictions from the 17th May which is good news for many and we have all seen in the media the delighted faces of those sitting inside pubs for the first time in what seems like forever. Families are once more able to meet inside their homes, up to a maximum of 2 households, and eat together, precious family time we have all missed out on.

We are now able to hug our loved ones which of course is wonderful news for many of us. Sadly there are of course those who have been prevented from spending time with their children and grandchildren throughout the pandemic in situations where COVID-19 has been used as a means of preventing any contact which could otherwise have taken place under the previous Government guidelines.

Browell Smith and Co have been contacted by many parents and in particular grandparents who have found themselves in such a situation. Please contact our expert team to arrange a no obligation chat if you are looking for advice and assistance in this area. Call our team directly on 0191 691 3418 to discuss your particular requirements.

Original article:

In a very short space of time, the deadly Covid-19 pandemic has devastated our daily lives. These are unprecedented times and people all over the world are encountering issues that would have seemed impossible just two months ago.

While the absolute priority is public health, and keeping our families and those around us safe, that has created further challenges as people start working from home and/or self-isolating to limit the spread of the virus.

With schools and nurseries being closed to almost all pupils from 20th March and increasing numbers of people working from home and social distancing, the issue of how to care for children at home is one such challenge.

It’s more complicated still for divorced or separated parents who have pre-existing child arrangements in place, which require children to spend time in different households.

Browell Smith & Co has been contacted by a number of people to give advice on how to handle child arrangements in light of the spread of Coronavirus, and especially when they are sick and/or self-isolating. There is certainly no precedent in case law for dealing with child arrangements during a pandemic of this scale and severity.

The President of the Family Division released some guidance back in March 2020 on complying with Child Arrangement Orders.

The Coronavirus: Separated Families and Contact with Children Paper dated 2nd December 2020 also provides information  in response to some key questions that you may have. You can read that paper here.

Child arrangements while self-isolating

The purpose of self-isolation is explained in the advice given by the Government and it should be taken incredibly seriously. If you are self-isolating because you are showing symptoms, then we strongly recommend you continue to do so – even if your symptoms are relatively mild, self-isolating could literally save lives.

Regulation 2 The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 states that if an adult or child has tested positive for Covid-19 or has come in close contact with someone with Covid-19, they are required to self-isolate. You are also required to self-isolate when travelling back to the UK from abroad, unless that country is exempt. You can see that guidance here.

The regulations state that where someone is required to self-isolate, they must remain in:

  • their home;
  • the home of a friend or family member;
  • a bed and breakfast accommodation, accommodation provided or arranged under section 4, 95 or 98 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999(1) or other suitable place.

That person self-isolating must not leave the above specified places, except where necessary. The regulation does NOT currently list visiting a parent whom a child does not usually live with as a reason why a person self-isolating may leave the house.

The governmental guidance on self-isolation states that if you live with someone with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result, you should stay at home for 14 days. This is because you may have been exposed to the virus and could pass it on to others, even if you don’t have symptoms. You can see that guidance here.

However, if you are a contact of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, but you do not have symptoms, other people living with you do not need to self-isolate and should follow the general guidance. If you do develop symptoms, you should arrange to have a test. If you live with other people, they will need to begin self-isolation at home while you wait for your test result. You can see that guidance here.

Bear in mind that symptoms might not be showing today, but people can be infectious before they show symptoms. An apparently healthy person today could have a fever and cough tomorrow, so don’t take good health for granted.

Also consider using technology to maintain contact – conversations on the phone, or by Skype/Facetime etc, if a child needs to be isolated with one parent. This could be the most practical solution, especially if there are older/vulnerable relatives in either household whose health needs must be prioritised.

In short:

  • You are should still comply to your child arrangement orders in accordance with the guidance.
  • If you show symptoms, follow Government advice – it is designed to save lives
  • Vulnerable, elderly or at-risk family members’ health must be the priority
  • Use technology such as Skype or Facetime as an alternative way to maintain contact during isolation.
  • If in doubt seek specialist advice

Childcare Bubbles

According to the Government Guidelines, families are allowed to form ‘Childcare Bubbles’ with friends or relatives to help them look after their children when needed.

What is a Childcare Bubble?

A childcare bubble is where someone in a household provides unpaid and unregistered childcare to a child from another household (aged 13 or under). As this is a ‘Bubble’ the care must always be between the same two households.

In October, the Government introduced a Three Tier system in order to simplify local lockdowns in coronavirus hotspots – but what does this mean for childcare?

The Three Tier Rules Explained for Childcare…

Tier 1 (Medium)

  • Registered childcare settings (this includes supervised activities for children) and schools are exempt from the ‘rule of six’.
  • You can continue to use childminders, after-school clubs and nannies in Tier 1.
  • Family and friends can continue to provide informal childcare (as long as groups from different households don’t exceed six people).

Tier 2 (High)

  • Registered childcare settings and schools are still exempt from the ‘rule of six’.
  • The following people are allowed to provide childcare support in private homes and gardens:
    • Registered childcare providers, including nannies.
    • People in your support bubble.
    • People in your childcare bubble.
  • Friends or family who do not live with you and are not part of a support or childcare bubble must not visit your home to help with childcare.

Tier 3 (Very High)

  • At the moment, the rules for childcare are the same for tier 3 as they are for tier 2. This could mean that decisions on any restrictions necessary could be taken on a case by case basis.

Can I form a Childcare Bubble between Tiers?

It is encouraged to form a Childcare Bubble with a household that is close to home, however, this isn’t always the case. Therefore, Childcare Bubbles can be formed across tiers.

The most important thing is to look after yourselves, your families and everyone else in society. Remember these measures have been put into place to save lives, so don’t take unnecessary risks.

Contact our expert team today to arrange a no-obligation chat at any of our offices, in Newcastle, Cramlington, Ashington and Sunderland, or alternatively telephone our team directly on  0191 691 3418 to discuss your particular requirements.

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