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Guidance for parents and childcare providers under alert level 4.

First published:
21 December 2020
Last updated:

Accessing childcare

Will I still be able to use childcare and play services?

Yes childcare services will still be open, including day care, child minding, sessional, crèche; out of school/holiday provision and Flying Start provision. This includes childcare and playwork providers operating from school sites, community centres, places of worship, leisure centres and sports venues.Nannies can also continue to provide childcare. 

There are currently no restrictions in place for  school holiday provision. Any change to the current situation will be communicated to settings immediately.

There is guidance to help childcare settings ensure that their services are safe.  This is not expected to change immediately, although we will be keeping it under review. Guidance for operating open access play settings remains in place and will not change.

Why are childcare settings open if schools are closed?

The decision to restrict onsite provision in schools has been taken in light of the high levels of community transmission we are seeing at present and the number of children, staff and sometimes parents that mix over the course of the school day. Schools are safe settings for children and teachers, with onsite provision in place for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

Childcare settings are smaller with fewer children and lower ratios so the extent of mixing is far less for both children and staff.  As drop off and pick up times are staggered throughout the day, there are typically fewer parents mixing at settings in comparison to the number of parents that may mix during school pick up and drop off times.  

The provision of childcare is vital in supporting parents’ ability to work, but it is also provides vital support in the earliest years of a child’s life and supports their ongoing cognitive, emotional and social development.

The data on positive cases at childcare settings and the latest scientific advice are being continually monitored and changes will be made to our advice to settings if necessary.

How can settings ensure they stay safe?

The control measures outlined in our Protective Measures guidance continue to be the best way to ensure safety at settings. 

Settings should continue to ensure that both staff and children practise good hand hygiene, that staff maintain a 2m distance from other staff both during and outside of sessions and that contact groups are kept consistent and as small as possible. 

My childcare provider is in a different local authority from the one where we live. Can I travel to access childcare for my child?

Yes, you can travel to provide, access or receive childcare. This includes travelling between Wales and England to access childcare. However, you will need to be mindful of England’s Tier approach and the differences in restrictions between areas in England and the Level 4 restrictions in Wales.

Can I move my child to a different childcare setting?

We hope childcare providers, including Flying Start provision, will remain open at all Levels of our response to the virus and that there will be no need for parents to move children between settings.  You will need to discuss with your childcare provider (and with your local authority if your child is accessing the Childcare Offer) what notice period you need to give to remove your child from the setting.

Can my child attend more than one setting, for example a day care setting and a childminder?

This is permitted, but parents are asked to carefully consider the risks. Parents will also need to discuss this with both settings and be satisfied that the different settings are operating in line with the Welsh Government’s guidance on keeping everyone safe. All the settings involved should also be aware that the child is attending more than one setting.

If your child becomes symptomatic they would need to stop attending both settings, and you would need to inform both settings.  If your child is asked to isolate as a close contact of a child at one setting, they should not attend the other setting either and you should inform the other setting.

Can I use childcare for my school-aged children?

There are no restrictions on the services of childcare settings at the moment. School aged children can attend childcare settings, but parents are asked to consider this option carefully and only use childcare when children cannot be cared for at home.  

I use childcare which is based on a school site. Will they stay open?

These settings should be able to run as normal although it is possible that some providers may face a period of disruption while there are restrictions to school operations.

I use childcare based in a community hall/church hall/leisure centre /sports venue. Will they stay open?

Childcare can continue to run as normal from these types of premises in Level 4 although it is possible that some providers may face a period of disruption, depending on the whether or not they can use the premises in the same way as before.

Can I use family or friends as informal childcare?

Yes, but this form of unpaid childcare should only be used when no other options are available. Children should not be cared for outside of their home if they are ill, or by anyone who is ill.  Adults dropping off children for childcare should not enter someone else’s home.

Are parks open?

Parks are allowed to remain open for outdoor exercise. You can attend parks with members of your household but you must not arrange to meet with other households.

However, some parts of parks such as sports courts, skate parks, bowling greens and golf courses (including putting, pitch and putt or miniature golf) will be closed.

Operators of parks and playgrounds need to follow existing guidance in order to be open.

Are children’s playgrounds open?

Yes. The benefits of outdoor play to children are significant and keeping parks and playgrounds open supports children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. Outdoor environments are lower risk in relation to coronavirus transmission.

However, risk cannot be eliminated, and parents and guardians are encouraged to ensure playgrounds do not get too busy, and take responsibility for social distancing, especially for adults and children over 11. In particular, you must not arrange to meet with other households at playgrounds and should not socialise there.

We also encourage frequent handwashing or sanitisation, not eating or drinking in parks, wiping down equipment with your own wipes, and maintaining low numbers within parks and on equipment by taking turns or using parks at less busy times.

Operators of parks and playgrounds need to follow existing guidance in order to be open.

Can children play outside in the street in their neighbourhoods?  

Yes, if they do not have access to other outdoor space, if it is safe to do so and if they are supervised appropriately by adults. The benefits of outdoor play to children are significant and being able to play outside supports children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. Outdoor environments are lower risk in relation to coronavirus transmission.

Children can play outside with members of their own household or support bubble but should not arrange to meet with children from other households. This applies to under 11s as well as to over 11s. Where children are old enough to understand the rules, they should be encouraged to follow them and to avoid mixing with other children outside their household or support bubble.

This also applies where children are in the same ‘school or class bubble’. This is because play at school is likely to be more controlled and organised with less likelihood of coming into unintended contact with people from outside of the bubble. 

Will we still be able to access Family Support Services?

Yes, Family Support Services will still be running.

Are activities and clubs for children allowed to run?

No mixing between households is not permitted under Level 4 restrictions (other than in very limited circumstances – see exceptions below). No indoor and outdoor gatherings are allowed and this includes activities such as Scouts groups, parent and toddler groups and dance classes. This reflects that people including children should not be spending time with people they do not live with unless essential.

Exceptions to this rule

Clubs used as childcare can continue as normal if they are operating from premises which are allowed to open for childcare under the regulations e.g. holiday or wrap-around childcare operating from community or church halls, leisure centres and sports venues.

The childcare offer

My child is eligible for Childcare Offer funding, but the provider is going to close because of the additional restrictions. What do I do for childcare?

If the setting you normally use closes because of the additional restrictions, then you can move your child to another registered setting signed up to deliver the Offer and the child’s place will be funded in the new setting. It is also possible that the local authority may be able to continue to fund your child’s place to cover a period of temporary disruption, if that would be your preference, although this depends on the reason for closure of the services. You can ask your local authority, through their Family Information Service, for advice on what to do.

During the national lockdown period in the spring and summer, I had Government funded childcare for my child (either because I was a critical worker or because the local authority agreed this was in the best interest of my child/children). Can I have Government funded childcare during Level 4 restrictions?

No, there will be no Government funded childcare during this period other than for parents and children who are eligible for support under the Welsh Government’s Childcare Offer for Wales and Flying Start.

I am not able to work because the firm/business I work for is closed because of the additional restrictions. Can I still receive the Childcare Offer?

If you still have a contract of employment (for example, you may be temporarily away from the workplace and receiving UK Government support) you can continue to access the Offer but you should notify your local authority if your working arrangements or income changes.

The additional restrictions mean I’m now working fewer hours and earning less than the minimum earnings threshold for the Offer. Can I still receive the Childcare Offer?

If you still have a contract of employment (for example, you may be working fewer hours now and receiving UK Government support as an employee or self-employed person) you can continue to access the Offer but you should notify your local authority if your working arrangements or income changes.

Childcare providers

Do I have to restrict my childcare and play services in any way during Level 4 restrictions, for example in terms of numbers of children?

No, provision can continue in accordance with current Welsh Government guidance which emphasise the importance of settings taking mitigating measures to prevent the transmission of coronavirus.

I run an after school club, can I operate?

Yes as long as you can still operate from your normal premises.

I provide wrap-around provision, can I operate?

Yes as long as you can still operate from your normal premises.

My setting is based in a community hall, can I still operate?

Yes, these types of premises can remain open for childcare.

My setting is based in a church hall/chapel hall/leisure centre/sports venue, can I still operate?

Yes, these types of premises can remain open for childcare.

I can’t operate in the way I normally would because of Covid-19 (e.g. my staff are having to self-isolate or I cannot access the premises where my services would normally run). Can I have any funding to help me through this period of temporary disruption?

Childcare Offer funding can continue to be paid based on booked hours in some circumstances where Covid-19 is causing disruption to childcare services.  Your local authority may also be able to provide some funding to help with additional costs or loss in income which you are facing as a result of Covid-19. You should contact your local authority and discuss this with them.

Read the full range of Economic Resilience Fund support for businesses.

What will the impact of the additional restrictions be on Flying Start during this time?

Flying Start settings will remain open during Level 4 restrictions as far as this is practicable and safe for both children and staff, therefore children should be able to attend Flying Start childcare settings as normal. We anticipate that the vast majority of Flying Start support services will continue in some form although some disruption to services may be unavoidable

I live and work in different local authority areas. Can I travel to my childcare setting to work although it is in another local authority?

Yes. You can travel to provide, access or receive childcare. This includes travelling between England and Wales to provide childcare. However, you will need to be mindful of England’s Tier approach and the differences in restrictions between areas in England and the Level 4 restrictions in Wales.

Could some of my workforce be required to shield?

Guidance is available for people including children, who are extremely vulnerable to developing serious illness if they are exposed to coronavirus because they have a particular serious underlying health condition.

For staff worried about being a higher risk of more serious symptoms, the COVID-19 workforce risk assessment should be completed. Staff are encouraged to share the results with their employer who may then take appropriate action.

Can I claim the JSS if my workplace is closed or if my working hours are reduced?

Please see our pages on financial support.

You may also find it helpful to talk to your local authority about your options in terms of funding support, especially if you are also in receipt of Government funding to deliver the Childcare Offer of Flying Start.

I’m self-employed, can I have a grant from the government to cover my losses?

Please see our pages on financial support.

You may also find it helpful to talk to your local authority about your options in terms of funding support, especially if you are also in receipt of Government funding to deliver the Childcare Offer of Flying Start.

Can I still accept placement students who work at my setting as part of the process for achieving their qualification and the assessors who assess them?

Yes, placement students are considered as staff and assessors from training providers would be considered essential visitors to ensure that practitioners are able to gain their qualifications. Social Care Wales have provided advice on how to do this safely.