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Guidance for parents and childcare providers.

First published:
26 March 2021
Last updated:



Accessing Childcare and play services

Can I use childcare and play services?

Yes childcare and play services are open, including full day care, child minding, sessional day care, crèches, out of school/holiday provision, open access playwork provision and Flying Start provision. Nannies can also provide childcare.

Children can attend more than one setting if required. Parents will need to discuss arrangements with both settings and be satisfied that the different settings are operating in line with the Childcare and Playwork COVID-19 Guidance. All the settings involved should also be aware the child is attending more than one setting and should be notified if the child receives a positive COVID-19 test.

Parents and carers can also use informal childcare, although children should not be cared for outside of their home if they are ill. If those providing the informal care are ill, they should not look after children. 

There is guidance to help children’s day care services ensure that their settings are as COVID-19 safe as reasonably possible. This guidance outlines the measures that reduce the risk of transmission in childcare settings and is under constant review.

What if I employ a nanny?

If you employ a nanny, you must follow the current guidance about taking reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus in the workplace. If an individual in your home or the nanny are at an increased risk, are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) or unvaccinated against the virus, then you and the nanny should consider the risks and benefits of continuing with the arrangement. If you decide to continue to employ the nanny, you should all follow government advice on protecting yourself and others.

If you or anyone in your household has any of the COVID-19 symptoms, that person should self-isolate (unless an exemption applies) and get a test. Children under 5 with COVID-19 symptoms do not need to undertake a test unless directed to do so by a doctor or if parents believe a test is absolutely necessary and in the best interests of the child. Your nanny should be informed of any positive cases of COVID-19 in the household and should self-isolate and get a test if they have any of the COVID-19 symptoms. If anyone in your household tests positive, they must continue to self-isolate and will be advised what else to do by Test Trace Protect There are exemptions to who has to self-isolate, but conditions apply that must be met first. Find out more here.

How are children’s day care services reducing the risk of COVID-19?

The measures outlined in our Childcare and Playwork COVID-19 Guidance continue to be the best way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission at settings. 

Settings should continue to ensure that both staff and children practise good hand hygiene and that effective cleaning and ventilation measures are in place.

Settings need to ensure they maintain records on attendance to support Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) processes and follow self-isolation requirements. Any staff member that has COVID-19 symptoms or who has received a positive test result must not attend the setting. Children under 5 with COVID-19 symptoms do not need to undertake a test unless directed to do so by a doctor or unless parents believe a test is absolutely necessary and in the best interests of the child. The child can return to the setting when their symptoms resolve.

Settings need to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus. Settings will need to ensure that regular risk assessments are undertaken of the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at the setting and that those attending or visiting the setting are advised on how to minimise that risk.

Why are children under 5 not advised to test now?

Children under 5 often find the testing process invasive and distressing and this can make getting a sample very difficult and distressing for parents and carers. Also children under five do not spread COVID in the same way as an adult or in the same way that people consider young children to spread cold and flu. Young children have small bodies, small lungs and small breath capacity which means even if they are infected with the virus they cannot spread it to others in the same way as an older young person or adult would. 

Are parks and playgrounds open?

Yes. There are no longer any restrictions in place on the number of people who can gather anywhere outdoors, including in private gardens, public parks and beaches, outdoor areas of regulated premises or for outdoor activities and events.

However, you are still advised to make your own judgement and avoid large gatherings wherever possible, this would include busy parks and playgrounds and distance yourself from other groups of people you don’t normally mix with.

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

 Are indoor play areas open?

Yes. Indoor play areas including indoor play centres, soft play and trampoline parks are open. 

 Can we access Family Support Services?

Yes, Family Support Services are running. Please contact your local authority if you think you need to access these services.

Are organised activities for children allowed?

Yes. The term organised children’s activities encompasses a broad range of activities held for their development and well-being of children and young people who were aged under 18 at the time of the activity. Examples could include attendance at sports clubs, drama classes, parent and toddler groups, youth groups and religious groups.

These activities are usually run by a business, a public body or charitable institution, a club, or the national governing body of a sport or other activity, and generally held in regulated premises. Clubs used as childcare, such as holiday or wrap-around childcare, can continue.

Organised children’s activities would not generally include children’s parties, or wider gatherings of families and friends which are now permitted.

Can parent and baby/toddler groups meet?

For parent and toddler groups and for parent and baby classes, organisers should follow all guidance in the Core Universal Guidance for Businesses, employers and organisers or activities and events. This includes on reasonable measures to minimise exposure to coronavirus, including social distancing, face coverings (unless a person is exempt) and handwashing requirements, avoiding shared items, and ensuring they limit the number of places to that which can be safely accommodated in the space available.

The group facilitator must consider the space available to allow for socially distanced interaction of the parents, how much time will be spent in people’s company and the level of ventilation to determine the number of people taking part in the group. Parents should arrive and leave promptly, and should continue to follow the rules on social distancing and handwashing.

Can children attend residential activities?

Up to 30 children from organisations, such as the Brownies and Scouts, can undertake residential visits over the summer holidays. Supervisors and group leaders are in addition to the 30 children who can participate.

Organisers have a duty to take all reasonable measures to ensure that these activities take place in a way that minimises exposure to coronavirus. Therefore, risk assessments should consider the space available to allow social distancing indoors (and outdoors if the risk assessment identifies this as a reasonable measure) as far as is possible with children and limit the number of children that can attend. Additionally, they must ensure that parents or guardians are aware there is an increased risk associated with mixing and staying overnight. This will enable them to make an informed decision when considering allowing children to attend these activities. For further information, refer to the Coronavirus recent and upcoming changes

Can people travel to attend residential activities or travel during these activities?

Yes. However, shared transport should be avoided. Wherever possible children, parents and organisers should avoid car sharing and lifts to attend these activities. If shared transport is essential to facilitate the activity, organisers should follow the rules on school transport. When using public transport people should follow the rules on the use of face coverings for those over 11.

Can I plan a children’s party in a venue such as a community centre, indoor play centre, ice rink, cinema, café, restaurant etc?

Yes, you can plan the party at these venues. These venues are examples of regulated premises. Your contact at the premises can advise you on the rules they have in place, the measures they have put in place and their restrictions on numbers of who can attend the party. 

Can I plan a children’s party in my home / garden?

Yes. There are no restrictions on the numbers of people who can meet outdoors or in a domestic premises. It is generally safer to meet outdoors, and even as restrictions are lifted, it is essential that everyone carries on with the good habits that reduce transmission: socially distancing and wearing face coverings when required, remembering good hand hygiene and those over the age of 5 getting a test at the first sign of symptoms, staying at home if unwell, to reduce the risk.

If organising a party in your home or garden you are advised to consider and follow the core guidance for the general public. You should also make a note of who attends in the event that you are contacted by TTP should one of your guests test positive for Covid-19. 

My child is not attending childcare for Covid-19 reasons, can I temporarily suspend my use of the Childcare Offer?

It is possible your local authority may be able to continue to fund your child’s place to cover a period of temporary withdrawal of your child from a setting due to Covid-19 reasons. You can ask your local authority, through their Family Information Service, for advice on what to do.

The current restrictions mean I can’t work or 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.

From the end of September 2021, if you no longer meet the eligibility criteria for the Offer you will enter a temporary exemption period of 8 weeks at which point you will no longer be eligible for Offer funding.