Family Support

This page is regularly updated with the latest guidance and advice that aims to support children, young people and their families to continue to access services and education as we move through the current pandemic.

England is following a phased four step roadmap out of lockdown, from Monday 12 April we will enter step 2. 

The Department for Education SEND division have also updated and refreshed their guidance for Special schools and other specialist settings to reflect the changing restrictions and provide current advice on settings and accessing education and services.

In the next section we highlight key changes and updates to get you on track now.


Last updated: 9 April 2021

Step 2 announced

On Monday 5 April 2021 the Prime Minister announced that on Monday 12 April England will enter step 2 of the government’s plan for easing the Covid restrictions.


What do the current restrictions under step 2 mean for families?

How the rules will change on 12 April?

From Monday 12 April, families will be able to:

  • Go to libraries and community centres
  • Visit leisure centres
  • Visit outdoor attractions including zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas
  • Attend parent and children groups and supervised activities both indoors and outdoors for up to 15 people

Please read the updated guidance on what you can and cannot do under the new restrictions for full details.

Meeting Friends and Family Outdoors

You can meet up outdoors with friends and family you do not live with, either:

  • in a group of up to 6 from any number of households (children of all ages count towards the limit of 6)

  • in a group of any size from up to two households (each household can include an existing support bubble, if eligible)

If you are in a support bubble, you and your support bubble count as one household towards the limit of 2 households when meeting others outdoors. This means, for example, that you and your support bubble can meet with another household, even if the group is more than 6 people.

You can meet in private outdoor spaces, such as gardens, and other outdoor public places and venues that remain open. These include the following:

  • parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests
  • public and botanical gardens
  • the grounds of a heritage site
  • outdoor sculpture parks
  • allotments
  • public playgrounds
  • outdoor sports venues and facilities

Support Bubbles

Support bubbles remain in place. You can form a support bubble with another household of any size if:

  • you live by yourself – even if carers visit you to provide support

  • you are the only adult in your household who does not need continuous care as a result of a disability

  • your household includes a child who is under the age of one or was under that age on 2 December 2020

  • your household includes a child with a disability who requires continuous care and is under the age of 5, or was under that age on 2 December 2020

  • you are aged 16 or 17 and live with others of the same age, without any adults

  • you are a single adult living with one or more children who are under the age of 18 or were under that age on 12 June 2020

Providing Care and Support

People can continue to gather in larger groups or meet indoors where this is reasonably necessary to:

  • provide care or assistance for disabled or vulnerable people, including shopping for essential items and accessing services on their behalf

  • provide emergency assistance

  • attend a support group (of up to 15 people)

  • provide respite care where that care is being provided to a vulnerable person or a person with a disability, or is a short break in respect of a looked-after child

You are not required to form a support bubble to provide these types of care, or carry out these activities. However, you should limit close contact with others as much as possible when doing so, particularly if helping someone who is more vulnerable to coronavirus.

Childcare Bubbles

Childcare bubbles remain in place. A childcare bubble is where one household links with one other household to provide informal childcare to a child or children under 14. All adults in both households must agree to this arrangement. ‘Informal’ childcare means it is unpaid and unregistered. Members of either household can provide childcare in a home or public place. This includes overnight care. You can only have one childcare bubble with one other household. This means no household should be part of more than one childcare bubble. More detailed information can be found here.

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable

All clinically extremely vulnerable children and young people are no longer advised to shield. However, you should continue to follow the guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and are advised to take additional precautions to protect them. 

Important things to remember

  • you must wear a face covering in most indoor public settings, unless you are exempt

  • you should follow the rules on how to stop the spread of coronavirus to protect yourself and others

  • you should attend school or college as normal, unless you are self-isolating. 

  • You should walk or cycle where possible, plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes when travelling 

Special school guidance - what happens if my child can't attend school because of Coronvirus?

SEND and specialist settings are required to provide remote education and pastoral support to pupils who are unable to attend school on-site because they are self-isolating. There may be additional challenges that some children and young people with SEND will experience in accessing remote education. Specialist settings should work with parent /families/ carers to support children and young people with complex needs to access appropriate remote learning and support where they are not able to be in school or college. 

Read more details here.

What does it mean for local authorities and short break providers?


Wraparound and extra curricular support providers will continue with operations as before. 

Parents or carers of disabled children may continue to access respite care to support them in caring for their disabled child. Further information on this is available at guidance for children’s social care services.

As provision continues, we continue to refer you to our useful resources and learning examples on short breaks.

You can download our briefing for local authorities Short Breaks for Disabled Children: A Legal Guide which sets out the relevant legal duties which remain relevant outside of the previous restrictions.

We also present our series of learning examples on short break provision during lockdown periods, which provide some useful advice and creative practice. You can read those here.

A key message from all providers that we heard from in relation to the learning examples was that risk assessments should be used as an enabler to providing support rather than a barrier. This message is still as relevant in this four step period as it is in national restrictions.

“Risk assessment which supports effective risk management and creative thinking led to different approaches to face-to-face support rather than support being withdrawn especially for children, young people and families who were particularly vulnerable or at high risk of going into crisis during the pandemic.”