Can I see separated parents or move house during lockdown? Your questions answered

With the nation in almost total lockdown, what do nannies and cleaners do and what if you are in a new, as yet permanent, relationship?

Grandparent reads - Separated parents, moving home and visiting elderly relatives during the lockdown: Your home and family questions answered
Grandparents will no longer be able to read to their grandchildren in person – not unless they already live in the same house Credit: TAXI

Home is now the "frontline" in the fight against coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said, as all but the nation’s key workers are instructed to stay inside except for essential trips out of the house.

Confinement is especially testing for the elderly, who cannot receive visitors. Families with children now have to find ways of entertaining them, often while working from home, as nurseries and childminders are shut to all but the children of key workers. But many parents remain confused about whether playing in the park, playdates or time in the care of nannies is allowed.

Many situations are not explicitly covered by government guidance, including visits from tradesmen, building work or house moves.

Q: The guidance says people should not be meeting friends or non-family members. But what if the boiler breaks down?
A: 
British Gas, along with other utility companies, are cancelling all routine appointments such as annual service visits. But they will continue to deal with emergencies and will prioritise vulnerable customers, including the elderly and those with young children.

You must tell them if you are self-isolating or suspect you have Covid-19. Engineers have been advised to take precautions including hand-washing before, during and after the appointment, and to keep a safe distance from customers.

Q: My partner and I are separated – can our children move between households?
A: 
Parents can still share custody of their children during the lockdown. The official Government guidance states: "Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents' homes." For handovers, it is best to follow Government protocols and practice social distancing while travelling and transfer the children in open spaces or between cars without any other interaction.

Q: My nursery/childminder is continuing to charge me even though I am keeping my children at home. Are they allowed to do this?
A:
This is at the discretion of the childcare provider. The Government has urged nurseries and childminders to be "reasonable and balanced" over fees and many are offering reduced rates or freezing payments, but they also have running costs and staff to pay.

Q: Can my nanny come to look after the children while I work from home?
A:
Nannies fall under the government category of key workers so are allowed to continue working. However, the official advice is that if parents can stay at home and look after their own children, they should do so.

Q: Can my cleaner still come?
A:
No, cleaners are not on the list of essential workers. If you pay your cleaner cash in hand and they are not registered with HMRC as self-employed, they will not be entitled to financial assistance from the government. Many people are choosing to pay their cleaners even though they are not coming to work.

Q: Can my child have a playdate?
A: 
No. Your child should not be going to another family’s home. If they encounter a friend while out with you in a park or on the street, they must keep their distance. Playgrounds are now out of bounds.

Q: Can I see my boyfriend or girlfriend during lockdown?
A:
The official – and rather drastic – advice is: either move in together or stay apart. Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said this is the time to test your relationship and decide if it’s serious: "Test really carefully your strength of feeling. Stay within your household, either together or apart, but keep it that way." Meeting up for dates then returning to separate households risks spreading the virus.

Q: Can we see family members who live in another house? Can I visit my brother and his children?
A:
No. The government guidelines state that you cannot meet family members who do not share your home.

Q: I need to attend an urgent GP/hospital/dentist appointment. Do I take the children with me? Or ask a friend/neighbour to look after them?
A:
The government is advising a "common sense" approach. The risk of leaving children with one friend or neighbour as babysitter is lower than taking them to a surgery or hospital where they will encounter more people. If you have no one with whom to leave young children, then you must take them with you. Try to avoid public transport if you can.

Q: I am having building work at home and we are half-way through a loft extension – does this work have to stop?
A:
The advice on this is unclear. Building work on construction sites can continue, according to Robert Jenrick, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary. But the Federation of Master Builders said no clear advice has been given for builders working on small-scale domestic projects, and the organisation has been inundated with calls from members and homeowners asking what to do.

Q: Can I move house during lockdown?
A:
There is no specific government advice on this. If you have exchanged contracts or terminated your lease then contact your solicitor and estate agent. House hunting, other than viewing properties online, is now on hold.

Q: I’m elderly and don’t have any neighbours who can bring food, but there are no supermarket delivery slots for at least three weeks and I don’t have enough food to last. What do I do?
A:
Elderly and vulnerable people who form part of the at-risk group are still able to travel to supermarkets to purchase food and other essentials. Many retailers have now introduced a 'designated' silver hour reserve for elderly customers to ensure they are not mixing with the wider population. A number of supermarkets have also begun prioritising customers aged over 70 for online delivery slots. Click and collect services are also being expanded. These services require customers to spend less time in-store.

The Government is currently working to establish local hubs to help get supplies to the clinically vulnerable who have been asked to stay in their homes for 12 weeks. Local authorities will assist with the delivery of groceries, while pharmacists will be asked to deliver medicines.

Q: Can someone collect furniture they have bought from my house during lockdown?
A:
Gumtree, the UK’s largest second-hand marketplace, is advising customers only to collect essential items. As an alternative, courier companies are available, with delivery drivers advised to obey social distancing rules – which as the above graphic highlights can help stem the spread of the disease – and place parcels on the doorstep after ringing the bell.