Scottish government Covid guidance: how have childcare rules been updated - and how it affects new parents

The Scottish Government have added new guidelines to support new parents

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has continued to urge Scots to “Stay at Home” until at least 5 April, but new essential travel guidance has been issued.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Scottish government has allowed travel in order for children to be cared for by a babysitter or visit a parent they do not live with.

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However, new rules have been introduced which affect new parents and young children. Here is everything you need to know.

Parents of children under one will now be able to seek wellbeing and welfare support from their own parents (Picture: Shutterstock)

What are the ‘Stay At Home’ rules?

On 5 January 2021, the Scottish Government reintroduced guidance which told everyone in tier 4 areas (all of mainland Scotland) to “stay at home as much as possible.”

This included using online shopping or local stores, only exercising within a five mile radius of your local authority, working from home where possible, and avoiding any unessential travel.

The government stated that this was the best way to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus.

However, there are several reasons why people may be allowed to leave their homes and travel outside of their local authority - including for essential work which could not be completed at home, some childcare and medical assistance.

What essential childcare purposes allow you to travel?

From 22 February, early learning and childcare returns full time for all children below school age.

For school age children, regulated school age childcare services (including childminders caring for more than 12 children) can remain open only for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Childminders (caring for less than 12 children) can continue for all ages and essential informal childcare can continue for all ages.

However, there was previously no mention of support for parents of young children - which meant new mothers could not travel to receive support.

On 2 March 2021, the Scottish Government announced changes to the essential purposes guidance for parents of young children.

While childcare can continue for children of nursery and school aged children, there were additional measures taken to support parents.

The Scottish Government has now changed this guidance for parents of children under one years old.

Announcing the changes, the First Minister said: "I can confirm that we are clarifying guidance on an issue which is directly relevant to parents of newborn children.

"There are currently a number of essential purposes – for example essential care – which enable us to go into someone else’s house.

"We are amending guidance on this today, to make it clear that those essential purposes include support for the welfare and well-being of a parent of a child who is under the age of one.

"I hope that gives clarity - and enables vital support - for parents of very young children.”

What does this mean for new parents?

This means that new parents, those of children who have yet to celebrate their first birthday, can visit grandparents for ‘vital’ wellbeing and welfare.

Travel includes leaving your local authority area or health board to give or receive support for the parent of a child under one.

Previously this had not featured in the guidance and many new parents feared that visiting their own parents for support would be classed as breaking Covid restrictions.

As the Scottish Government’s health department announced the move on Twitter, several new parents responded.

One wrote: “This is (and has been) 100 per cent needed. As a parent of a newborn and a toddler it has been an exceptionally challenging year.”

Another added: “Bit late with this one, poor new mums struggling or accepting help but frightened of being punished.“