Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that informal childcare will be exempt from local lockdown rules on households mixing.

The new government rules still ban playdates and parties, but allow for family and friends to share childcare so that parents can go to work.

Speaking to the Commons on Monday, he acknowledged that informal arrangements were a “lifeline” for many people, and without them they were unable to do their jobs.

Informal childcare is an arrangement where care is provided by grandparents, relatives, friends or a babysitter outside of traditional 'formal' paid childcare settings such as a nursery or childminder.

Many parents rely heavily on a network of informal care to enable them to work while children are of pre-school age, and to provide wrap-around care outside of school hours.

The decision comes after concerns were raised about the impact of local restrictions on childcare arrangements outside of nurseries.

The exemption now means that family and friends, including grandparents, will be able to care for children without breaching the ban on mixing households - which is now illegal where local lockdown rules dictate.

However it only applies to childcare for under 14s and vulnerable adults.

Mr Hancock told MPs: “I’ve heard their 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.

“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."

He added: “This covers both formal and informal arrangements.

“It means for instance, if grandparents look after children in order to provide childcare, where that is a continuous childcare relationship, that will be exempt, in the same way paid for childcare is exempt.”

“This doesn’t allow for children staying with others or play dates.

“I know how much people rely on this in order to get to work and I’m really glad we’ve been able to this progress.”

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