From 6pm today (Friday 23rd October 2020), Wales will enter into a two-week “fire break” lockdown, ending on 9th November 2020. Everyone in Wales will be required to stay at home, meaning working from home wherever that is possible, except those considered to be ‘critical workers’ and those in jobs where they cannot work from home.
The Welsh Government has confirmed that there will be five main restrictions in place, namely:
- people must stay at home, except for very limited purposes;
- people must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with;
- certain businesses and venues, including bars, restaurants and most shops must close;
- secondary schools will provide learning online only for the week after half-term, other than for children in years seven and eight. Primary schools and childcare settings will remain open; and
- face coverings continue to be mandatory in the indoor public spaces that remain open (subject to certain exemptions and exceptions), including on public transport and in taxis.
Understandably, the ever-evolving rules and guidelines can lead to many parents, especially those who have separated, feeling unsure about what their children can and cannot do.
General Guidelines for parents
For parents with children in primary school and years seven and eight, schools will close as normal throughout half-term and they will reopen on 2nd November 2020. Therefore, apart from attending at school during the week commencing 2nd November 2020, children in years seven and eight and those at a primary school age must stay at home.
All other children must stay at home during the “fire break” lockdown period.
Guidelines for separated parents
The Welsh Government has confirmed that where parental responsibility is shared, existing arrangements can continue and the child can move between both parents, and therefore, between both parents’ households. Children moving between parents and their households is therefore, one of the exceptions to having to stay at home during the “fire break” period.
Where there is already a Child Arrangements Order in place, parents are therefore, generally advised to continue to comply with the Order, unless the individual child has been advised to self-isolate or someone in either household is displaying symptoms of COVID-19.
Whilst spending time with your children, you should adhere to the Government guidelines i.e. staying at home, except for very limited purposes. Local parks, playgrounds and outdoor gyms will remain open during the “fire break” period and parents can attend parks with members of their household. The Welsh Government has confirmed that the there are significant benefits to keeping parks and playgrounds open, however, parents and guardians are encouraged to ensure that playgrounds do not get too busy and that social distancing is adhered to, especially for adults and children over the age of 11.
Parents must not arrange to meet with other households (except in very limited circumstances).
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Family Courts have seen a rise in applications for Child Arrangements Orders, with CAFCASS receiving approximately 14.5% more new private law cases in September 2020 than in September 2019.
If you are having issues with the other parent of your child/ children and there is no Child Arrangements Order in place, the guidance remains that you should try and discuss the matter with the other parent. However, if you feel that you have been unjustifiably prevented from seeing your child/ children during the pandemic, and you require legal advice, please get in touch to speak with one of our family law experts.
If there is a Child Arrangements Order in place and you think that it would be in the child/ children’s best interests for the same to be varied or enforced, our specialist team are here to assist you.
T: 029 2034 2233
Author: Bethan Tapper