Parents in England have urged the Government to rethink its “rule of six” after it barred one family from seeing an ill 95-year-old great-grandparent, while a single mother of six has been stopped from receiving any help with childcare.
In the wake of several high profile policy U-turns this summer, ministers have so far refused to heed calls to remove children from the new law, which prevents groups of more than six from meeting indoors or outdoors from Monday.
However, many parents of larger families who spoke to the PA news agency felt it was unfair that people could go to pubs, play sports and commute into offices while they and their children were separated from friends and family.
Sarah Pearson, 41, from Norwich, has six children, five of whom are at school and live with her at home.
The rule means she would face a fine of £100 if the group met with anyone outside the family, leaving them once again isolated after months in lockdown.
“My children didn’t leave our front garden for months. It’s been incredibly hard,” the trainee teaching assistant told the PA news agency.
“It will cause tears, I am already the parent being strict and saying we play outside and no to sleepovers when others are doing them. And we are being careful. It’s another thing that separates them from friends.
“These kids are all in classes together at school but can’t play in the park together on the way home from school. It’s a nonsense.”
Ms Pearson called on the Government to be “sensible like Scotland and Wales” and exempt children from the rule, which can lead to fines of between £100 and £3,200 if breached.
She added: “I had someone tell me I should stay at home, but it’s not that simple when my children need to go to school and I have to carry on with placement and look for work so my benefits aren’t sanctioned.”
Another parent with children aged four, six, eight and 10 now faces the prospect of being banned from spending Christmas with her ill elderly grandfather.
“He’s 95, was in great health until very recently and my Nan is 90. All they want is to be with the great-grand-children for Christmas,” said the mother, who asked not to be named.
Asked if she would abide by the rules in such circumstances she added: “No, I will go and see them. It could be our last chance.”
Despite the pleas of many families, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove indicated again on Saturday that the Government would not consider removing children from the rule, which comes into effect on Monday.
He told BBC Breakfast: “No. I entirely understand, family life is so important, but the rule is there, the rule is clear and it commands public confidence.”
Rachel Deackes, 36, from Leicester, barely saw anyone other than her husband and three children during national and then local lockdowns as she shielded due to her ulcerative colitis.
“There is me, my husband, a 12-year-old son and nine-year-old twins. So as a five it means we either have to choose to see just one person or nobody.
“I’ve hardly seen my parents or my husband’s parents or my brother and partner because I had to shield for so long,” she said.
She added that lockdown had been “difficult” with her condition, as “normally if it’s a bad day I can rely on my parents’ help as they live in the same village as me”.
Mrs Deackes added: “I understand why they are doing this with the numbers rising, especially as someone who is clinically vulnerable, but if they didn’t add children into it then we could see both sets of grandparents.”