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Critical (key) workers - education and childcare in the coronavirus lockdown

From January 2021

Critical workers (also know as key workers) are people whose work is critical to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and EU transition response and include those who work in health and social care and in other key sectors, as detailed in the sections below. 

Children with at least one parent or carer who is a critical worker may continue to attend school or college during the lockdown from January 2021. 

Schools and colleges should speak to parents and carers to identify who requires a school place. They may ask for simple evidence that the parent in question is a critical worker, such as their work ID badge or pay slip.

After school provision may be made available to children of key (critical) workers and  vulnerable children only. 

All Early Years children (under 5's) can continue to access childcare as normal from nurseries / childminders, though school-based nurseries may restrict access in line with primary schools.

Health and social care

This includes, but is not limited to, doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare

This includes:

  • childcare
  • support and teaching staff
  • social workers
  • specialist education professionals who must remain active during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response to deliver this approach

Key public services

This includes:

  • those essential to the running of the justice system
  • religious staff
  • charities and workers delivering key frontline services
  • those responsible for the management of the deceased
  • journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting

Local and national government

This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of:

  • the coronavirus (COVID-19) response, and the delivery of and response to EU transition
  • essential public services, such as the payment of benefits and the certification or checking of goods for import and export (including animal products, animals, plants and food), including in government agencies and arms length bodies

Food and other necessary goods

This includes those involved in food:

  • production
  • processing
  • distribution
  • sale and delivery
  • as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines)

Public safety and national security

This includes:

  • police and support staff
  • Ministry of Defence civilians
  • contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and EU transition)
  • fire and rescue service employees (including support staff)
  • National Crime Agency staff
  • those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas

Transport and border

This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response and EU transition, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass and those constructing or supporting the operation of critical transport and border infrastructure through which supply chains pass.

Utilities, communication and financial services

This includes:

  • staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure)
  • the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage)
  • information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response
  • key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services)
  • postal services and delivery
  • payments providers
  • waste disposal sectors
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