Grandparents allowed to care for under 14s in lockdown household mixing exemption

21 September 2020, 16:13 | Updated: 21 September 2020, 16:38

By Megan White

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced a childcare exemption to local lockdown restrictions, allowing households to mix if they are caring for children under 14 or vulnerable adults.

Making a statement about the coronavirus crisis, Mr Hancock said he had heard "concerns about the impact of local action on childcare arrangements" as parts of the UK were subject to local lockdowns.

But he said the exemption would not allow parents to send their children to "playdates or parties" with friends from another household.

He told the Commons: "I've heard the concerns about the impact of local action on childcare arrangements. For many, informal childcare arrangements are a lifeline, without which they couldn't do their jobs.

Read more: UK could see 50,000 Covid cases by October and 200 deaths a day by November

Read more: Four more areas of Wales going into local lockdown

"So, today I'm able to announce a new exemption for looking after children under the age of 14 or vulnerable adults where that is necessary for caring purposes.

"This covers both formal and informal arrangements. It does not allow for play-dates or parties, but it does mean that a consistent childcare relationship that is vital for somebody to get to work is allowed."

He added: "I hope this change will provide clarity and comfort to many people who are living with these local restrictions."

Matt Hancock acknowledged how hard it is for communities facing local action in efforts to tackle the virus.

He told the Commons: "We know from experience that local action can work when local communities come together to follow the rules, tackle the virus and keep themselves safe.

"I know how hard this is. We're constantly looking for how we can ensure measures bear down on the virus as much as possible while protecting both lives and livelihoods."

The Health Secretary also told the Commons "there can be no doubt that this virus is accelerating".

He added: "As the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser said earlier today, we're seeing a rise in cases across all age groups.

"This pattern is emerging across the entirety of our United Kingdom and earlier this afternoon the Prime Minister held discussions with the first ministers of the devolved administrations and the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland to make sure that, wherever possible, we are united in our efforts to drive this virus down.

"We know that the epidemic is currently doubling around every seven days and that if we continue on this trajectory we could see 50,000 cases a day by mid-October, so there can be no doubt that this virus is accelerating."

Mr Hancock said people on low-incomes who need to self-isolate with Covid-19 will be eligible for a £500 payment from next Monday.

In a statement, he said: "Self-isolation can be tough for many people especially if you're not in a position to work from home.

"I don't want anyone having to worry about their finances while they're doing the right thing.

"So we will introduce a new £500 isolation support payment for people on low incomes who can't work because they have tested positive or are asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.

The Government said that as of 9am on Monday, there had been a further 4,368 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. Overall, 398,625 cases have been confirmed.

It also said a further 11 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday. This brings the UK total to 41,788.

Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies show there have now been 57,500 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.