Rules that will apply to being in an extended household and advice about how to form one.
The general rules during the firebreak lockdown are that:
- people must stay at home, except for very limited purposes
- people must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with.
This means that existing extended household arrangements have been suspended.
However, if you are an adult living alone or are a single parent household, you can form a temporary extended household with one other household. This will allow you to spend time with the people in that household as if you lived with them.
This guidance helps explain what is meant by a household and an extended household, the key rules that apply to being in an extended household, and some advice on how to form one.
Households and extended households
A household means a group of people living in the same home. A household can be one person living on their own, flatmates, or a family living in the same home. What’s important is that it’s always the same people and the same home.
During this firebreak lockdown, you can only enter into an extended household if you are an adult living alone or are a single parent household. People in those categories can form a temporary extended household with one other household. This will allow you to spend time with the people in that household as if you lived with them.
This means that all the people in the two households join together to become in effect part of a single household and enjoy the same legal freedoms a household has – they are able to meet indoors and have physical contact. They can also stay in each other’s homes.
This temporary extended household concept – also known as bubbles – has been designed to help people who might be lonely or who might be particularly struggling with the impact of the lockdown.
Benefits of being in an extended household
The people you choose to join with, in effect, become part of your household, and legally you can treat any member of your extended household as if you lived with them.
This means you can:
- spend time with them indoors
- have physical contact with them – there is no need for social distancing with people in your extended household
- touch things that they have touched, and vice versa
- stay in each other’s homes overnight
- go places together and do things, such as shopping, driving in cars or exercising, without needing to physically distance from each other.
- provide or receive care or support for them, if you do not do so already
- give unpaid carers a break from their caring responsibilities (for example, by looking after their children while they take some time off)
Rules on temporary extended households
Because a household can vary in size, there is no limit on the number of people who can be in an extended household. But only two households can form part of the extended household, and one of them must be a single person or single adult household.
The key rules on who belongs to an extended household are that:
- No person can be part of more than one extended household, with the exception of people who live in two homes (for example children whose parents have separated and have joint custody)
- All individuals in one home must belong to the same extended household
- All of the adult members of each household must agree to join the same extended household
- Once you have agreed and joined a temporary extended household, nobody can leave the extended household to form a new one during the short firebreak period.
Local areas and extended households
There are no rules specifying that your extended household has to be with someone in your local authority area, or within any set distance of your home. There are also no rules preventing extended households being formed with households outside Wales, and we recognise that these may in particular be the right answer for people living close to a border.
However, bearing in mind the overall objective of the firebreak lockdown is to reduce contact between people as much as possible, we do recommend that extended households are formed locally where possible. In particular we ask that people think very carefully about possible alternatives before forming extended households which would require extensive travel or travel into areas outside Wales with very high incidence of coronavirus.
Houses of multiple occupations (HMOs)
Houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) are made up of separate households which will have their own tenancy agreements, but share facilities, such as bathrooms, living rooms or kitchens. Each household within an HMO can enter into separate temporary extended households if they meet the qualifying criteria, but because of the higher potential that coronavirus could be spread throughout the house, these households should be aware that they are potentially putting themselves and others at increased risk and they should think carefully about forming an extended household with people not living in their house.
This also applies to students living in HMOs and to people in supported living arrangements where people have individual tenancies.
Children and parental responsibility
Where parental responsibility is shared, existing arrangements can continue and the child can move between both parents, and therefore between both parents’ households. The introduction of temporary extended households should not have an impact on this, and the child should be considered to be part of the household or extended household of the parent they are with at any particular time. In other words if either or both parents form an extended household with a household which does not include the other parent, the child could continue to move freely between the parents, and be part of both extended households (i.e. the child does not have to socially distance within the extended household, whichever parent they are with).
For children who do not live in the same household as their parents and have existing arrangements in place to visit and safely have contact, these arrangements can continue. This could include children in foster care, children’s homes and adoptive placements.
Carers – whether they are care workers or unpaid carers – do not form part of your extended household. However, they can continue to provide you with whatever support you need, and go anywhere with you if you need their support.
All of the above rules are legal requirements, and by entering into an extended household which does not comply with these rules, or by acting as if you were in an extended household where you are not, you are at risk of committing a criminal offence.
In addition, although this is not a matter of law, we ask that if one member of an extended household develops symptoms of coronavirus, the entire extended household should self-isolate, not just those living together. Guidance is available about self-isolation and how to apply for a coronavirus test.
It is also useful for people to keep a record of who is in their extended household and their contact details, so contact tracers can get in touch with them quickly in the event that they need to.
How to choose who to go into a temporaryn extended household with
Choosing which household to go join with to form a temporary extended household is an important decision and for many people we know it may be a difficult one.
For example, parents with adult children who live separately may have to choose which child’s household to pair up with, and similarly other members of a family such as grandparents may not be able to join the extended household.
In some cases, you may find that a household you wish to join together with has already agreed to enter into an extended household with another household.
There is no right or wrong way to decide on who you should go into an extended household with. However, in other countries where this approach has been followed, studies have shown that people have found it helpful to ask themselves who is in the most need of support, rather than just trying to decide whose company they have most missed.
Everybody is entitled to be part of a temporary extended household if they meet the qualifying criteria, including people who have been shielding because they are at high risk of developing serious illness if they are exposed to coronavirus. Indeed, people who have been shielding may be at greatest risk of loneliness or of having other needs that are not being met.
On the other hand, while for most people the risk of catching coronavirus is currently low if they abide by all relevant guidance to protect themselves, it is still real, and it is inevitably increased to some degree by entering into an extended household. In particular, if you enter into an extended household with someone who comes into close contact with others in their work or with children who are attending a school or nursery, this will increase the level of risk to the extended household.
Schools, nurseries and employers are required to take all reasonable measures to reduce the risk of transmission. However, ultimately it is for people to decide on their own extended households.
Seeing people outside your extended household
You are not generally allowed to see people outside your household and any temporary extended household you have formed. However, you are allowed to provide care for or to help someone who needs it, such as an older person, a child or a vulnerable adult, even if they are not part of your household. You can also visit someone on compassionate grounds if necessary.
You may have compassionate reasons for visiting someone in exceptional circumstances where that person is struggling with restrictions on meeting others generally or they may be suffering from a physical or mental illness, have suffered a bereavement or you may be concerned about their general wellbeing or welfare.
Visits to places such as supported accommodation, children’s homes, hospitals or care homes are permitted in exceptional circumstances, where they are allowed by the relevant setting. In each case, the service provider needs to put in place appropriate social distancing and safety measures before allowing visits, and you should contact them before travelling.
When considering whether there is a need to visit someone outside your household, especially indoors, you should remember we all have a responsibility to recognise the risks the virus presents to ourselves, our families and friends and our wider communities.
People need to make judgements for themselves about what is reasonable, in line with that overarching principle. Keep in mind that the purpose of the restrictions is to prevent the spreading of the virus, including to those we care about.