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Support bubbles: what you need to know now

Support bubbles have proven to be a major lifeline for people who live alone and would have been cut off from friends and family during the coronavirus lockdowns. With a new national lockdown imminent, support bubbles have perhaps never been more important.

However, there’s still much confusion about what the rules are. So, here’s everything you need to know.

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What is a support bubble?

A tot the website, a support bubble is a close support network between a single-adult household and one other household of any size.

Once a single adult is in a support bubble, they can basically think of themselves as being in a single household with members of the other household that they’ve formed a bubble with. The two households can visit each other, stay overnight and even visit outdoor public places together.

The idea behind a support bubble is to prevent those living alone becoming isolated during lockdowns, since long periods of isolation can be harmful to mental health.

To form a support bubble, you do not need to do anything other than have a conversation with the household you want to form a bubble with so that everyone is in agreement.

How many support bubbles can you have?

You can only be part of one support bubble. 

From 14 September, if you form or continue to be in a bubble, you cannot then change your bubble. That means you cannot add anyone else to your existing bubble. Also, you cannot leave your bubble to form a new one or join another one.

If you form a bubble after 14 September, it does not have to be the same support bubble you may have been in previously.

Who can form a support bubble?

There are three situations in which you can form a bubble:

1. If you’re a single-adult household

If you live by yourself or are a single parent living with children who were under 18 on 12 June 2020, you can form a support bubble with a household of any size that is not already part of another bubble.

2. If you live with other adults (including carers)

You can form a support bubble with one single-adult household who are not already part of another bubble.

3. If you are a parent or guardian sharing custody of your child with someone you don’t live with

If you are a single-adult household, you may form a support bubble with another household other than the one that your child’s other parent is part of.

However, if you come from a household with several adults, you can only form a bubble with a single-adult household other than the one that includes your child’s other parent.

Apart from a support bubble, you are also allowed to have a childcare bubble. Here, someone in one household can provide informal (unpaid and unregistered) childcare to a child aged 13 or under in another household.

What if someone in your bubble displays coronavirus symptoms or tests positive?

The government says that if anybody in your support bubble develops symptoms or tests positive for the virus, you should follow the stay at home guidelines.

There are different stay at home guidelines for different types of households and scenarios that are available on the website.

For example, if you have coronavirus symptoms or have tested positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days. If you live with someone who’s tested positive for the virus, you’ll have to stay at home for 14 days.

What are the rules in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

In Wales which is currently under a firebreak lockdown, people have generally been advised to stay at home and not mix with anyone outside their household. However, adults living alone can meet one other household indoors.

Under Scotland‘s new five-level lockdown system, people in support bubbles can continue meeting. The bubble should comprise people living alone or with children under 18 and people from one other household.

Northern Ireland which is under a four-week circuit breaker lockdown has slightly different support bubble rules. Rather than being limited to a single-adult household and one other full household, two full households can form a support bubble with each other. However, the bubble is limited to a total of 10 people.

Final word

A lockdown can be a mentally challenging time, especially if you live alone. It’s therefore quite reassuring that you can at least form a network with another household for comfort and support.

Unfortunately, lockdowns affect more than just our mental health. Our personal finances are also likely to take a hit. There’s no need to panic, however.

We have prepared a practical coronavirus money guide to help you protect your finances during this crisis and prepare for whatever may come. 

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