Guidance

Making a support bubble with another household

How you can safely expand the group of people you have close contact with during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

National lockdown: stay at home

You must stay at home. This is the single most important action we can all take to protect the NHS and save lives.

You must not leave your home unless necessary.

Find out what you can and cannot do

What a support bubble is

A support bubble is a support network which links 2 households. You have to meet certain eligibility rules to form a support bubble. This means not everyone will be able to form a support bubble.

Once you’re in a support bubble, you can think of yourself as being in one ‘household’. It means you can have close contact with the other household in your bubble as if they were members of your own household. This means you do not need to maintain social distance with people in your support bubble.

You should continue to follow social distancing guidance with people outside of your household or support bubble. This is critical to keeping you, your family and friends as safe as possible.

If you form a support bubble, it is best if this is with a household who live locally. This will help prevent the virus spreading from an area where more people are infected.

Who can make a support bubble

Not everybody can form a support bubble. However, on 2 December the rules changed to widen eligibility for forming one.

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 living with others of the same age and 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

You should not form a support bubble with a household that is part of another support bubble.

If you share custody of your child with someone you do not live with

If you share custody of a child with someone you do not live with, the child can move freely between both parents’ households. You do not need to form a support bubble to do this.

You can form a support bubble if you are eligible.

How support bubbles relate to childcare bubbles

A support bubble is different to a childcare bubble. Being in a support bubble does not stop you from forming a childcare bubble.

You might be able to form a childcare bubble to provide or receive childcare from one other household if you live with someone under the age of 14.

However, you must not meet socially with your childcare bubble, and must avoid seeing members of your childcare and support bubbles at the same time.

Changing your support bubble

Where possible, you should avoid changing your support bubble. This will help prevent spreading the virus between households. If necessary – for example, your circumstances or that of your existing support bubble changes – you may form a new support bubble provided that:

  • your household, or the one you intend to form a new support bubble with, meets at least one of the eligibility rules
  • the other household is not already part of a support bubble which they intend to remain a part of

If you decide to change your support bubble, you should treat your previous bubble as a separate household for 10 days before forming a new bubble.

If someone in your previous support bubble develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus up to 48 hours after members of the bubble last met, all members of the bubble must self-isolate for 10 days. You must not form a new bubble until you have completed your self-isolation.

If someone in your support bubble develops coronavirus symptoms or tests positive

If anyone in your support bubble develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus, follow the stay at home guidance.

This is critical to controlling the virus, as it will help to stop it spreading across multiple households.

If NHS Test and Trace contacts someone in your support bubble

If NHS Test and Trace contacts you or someone in your support bubble, you should follow their guidance.

If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable

If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, you should reduce social contacts as much as possible. You will minimise your risk of infection if you limit all your contacts, particularly with people that you do not live with.

However, if you feel it is essential for your physical or mental health, you can maintain an existing support bubble, or form a new one as per the guidance on changing your support bubble. This is a personal choice and should be balanced against the increased risk of infection.

Those defined, on medical grounds, as clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus are people with specific serious health conditions.

Published 9 September 2020
Last updated 15 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reflect national lockdown stay at home guidance.

  2. Update to clarify when you can change your support bubble.

  3. Updated guidance to reflect that the 14-day isolation period is now 10 days.

  4. Updated with clarification of how support bubbles work for those in more than one type of bubble, and simplified guidance on travelling to form a support bubble.

  5. Amended the eligibility criteria for a support bubble and added guidance on how to switch your support bubble.

  6. Amended the definition of 'what a support bubble is'. Added information about childcare bubbles. Added guidance about forming or maintaining a support bubble if you're clinically extremely vulnerable.

  7. Updated the guidance to say that support bubbles cannot be changed.

  8. First published.