Can grandparents provide childcare and hug their grandchildren during coronavirus restrictions?

What do local lockdowns mean for grandchildren and grandparents?

Grandparents childcare babysit

by Rhiannon Evans |

The question of whether grandparents can provide childcare, babysit or even hug their grandchildren has been most of the most emotive (and overlooked) questions since the outbreak of coronavirus in March.

The unprecedented closure of schools and nurseries during lockdown caused untold stress and strain for million of parents, especially as it came alongside a national lockdown that prevented children seeing their grandparents, unless they lived together. But even now children are back to school and childcare, the loss of wraparound care (breakfast and after school clubs) that would allow parents to work full days, mean usually grandparents would be the fall back option.

However, a series of local lockdowns, the Rule Of Six policy and government advice appears to suggest interaction between grandparents and grandchildren isn't possible.

Can grandparents look after children in areas not in lockdown?

Initially it was said that many grandparents were classed in the vulnerable group, so over 70 or might have underlying health conditions and were out of bounds. Which left people wondering, what if the grandparents aren't over 70 or particularly vulnerable?

However, the government advice has moved away from this 70 plus and vulnerable categorisation and seems to see grandparents in general as a group children should stay away from.

Speaking about parents using grandparents for help earlier this month (September), Health Secretary Matt Hancock said this morning it was ' a very significant problem in terms of the spread of the disease'.

Asked about grandparents caring for children, Mr Hancock said: 'That’s actually a very significant problem in terms of the spread of the disease as while children are hardly affected in terms of getting ill, we know they can transmit the disease and know where people are older - and most grandparents are older - are more likely to die from the disease.

'So especially with schools back, the transmission of the disease from children to grandparents is one of the things we are worried about clinically.'

Stopping short of actually advising against it or banning grandparent childcare in policy or law, he continued: 'The problem is, young people do pass it on. It doesn’t matter how old you are, everybody needs to follow the rules and just meet up in groups of up to six and no more than that. It’s so important people follow these rules because we want to see a stop in the rise in number of cases.

Can grandparents provide childcare in areas of local lockdown?

Though the picture is changing fast and different areas have different rules, it appears that in places of local lockdown (like the north east, Lancashire, Merseyside, parts of the Midlands and West Yorkshire which have seen sharp rises in covid cases) unless you live with grandparents, you are not able to see them and they cannot provide childcare.

In the north east, for instance, people are unable to meet others that don't live with them or are part of their support bubble indoors or outdoors. This would mostly rule out grandparents.

You can, however, allow people into your home for childcare 'provided by a registered provider'. Grandparents and ad hoc help with childcare is not included in this. It's been reported the local authorities asked that grandparents and informal childcare be allowed, but this was blocked by the government.

In some local lockdowns, socialising is only banned at home and in private gardens. So theoretically, you could meet grandparents in a park or in a pub or restaurant. But you are still supposed to social distance and bear in mind Matt Hancock's advice about the spread of the disease. This would seem to mean grandchildren shouldn't hug their grandparents.

You may also be unable to see grandparents if it would break the national 'rule of six' guidance.

Can children give grandparents coronavirus if they don't appear ill?

We spoke to Dr Luke Kane at the beginning of lockdown in March, and though restrictions have eased, his advice around whether children can pass on the disease, does still stand.

‘At the moment, kids seem to be quite resilient against the virus, but they can transfer it. So just because the child doesn’t get really sick, it doesn’t mean they can’t transmit the virus to someone that could get really sick,’ said Dr Kane. ‘The disease has been reported as, “It only affects people over 70,” but if you look at people who’ve been dying, it’s also 40- and 50-year-olds with medical conditions. So, it’s not this illness that only affects old people, it’s a very dangerous disease for everyone.’

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