What does the new lockdown mean for parents caring for a child with serious health needs?

Posted on the 5th January 2021

** This page is no longer being updated. Please visit https://www.wellchild.org.uk/how-the-latest-covid-19-restrictions-may-affect-your-family/  for the latest information about Covid-19 restrictions **


Whilst it has been announced that restrictions will be eased soon, national lockdowns remain in place across the UK. The rules differ slightly depending on whether you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Below is a summary of the current restrictions in England, followed by summaries of the differences in guidance for the devolved nations.


Clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) children and adults

  • NHS run services across the UK are functioning and you should seek support for your child’s existing health conditions as you normally would.
  • CEV people are advised to shield until 1 April.
  • You can still receive care at home from professionals.
  • Support bubbles still apply and you can receive informal care at home from people in your support bubble. The full Government guidance on forming a support bubble can be found on their website here >>
  • Currently the Government says that “Others living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable are not advised to follow this guidance”. However, if you feel uncomfortable going to work in person, you can ask your employer to furlough you. The Government has encouraged those who require advice about their employment rights to contact Acas – visit their website here >>
  • CEV people are strongly advised not to go to the shops to buy essentials or to their pharmacy to collect medicine.
  • Children advised to shield should not attend school in person until the shielding advice is lifted. For most, this will mean they can return to school after the Easter holiday.


Support for CEV people

  • People who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus can register to receive support via a new Government online service here >>
    • You can use this service to:
    • Get access to priority supermarket deliveries (if you do not have access to priority delivery already)
    • Ask for someone to contact you about any local support that’s available
    • Update your details – for example, your address
    • Support through priority supermarket deliveries is set to stay in place until at least June.
  • You can also request volunteer support from NHS Volunteer Responders via an app or by telephone here >>
    • NHS Volunteer Responders can provide support with a number of things, including collecting prescriptions and transport to appointments.



  • Most children in England have returned to school.
  • Children who have been advised to shield should not attend school in person until the advice changes on 1 April. Some children may be advised to continue to shield by their lead clinician or GP.
  • Children who cannot attend school should have access to remote learning from their school for as long as they are not able to attend.
  • Exams such as SATS, GCSEs and A Levels have been cancelled in 2021. The Government has announced that teacher assessment will replace these exams.



We have further information about the vaccine roll-out available here >>


Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

The lockdown measures in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are largely the same those in England, with schools currently closed to most pupils and shielding advice for CEV people. CEV people across the UK can use the above methods to get support. People in the devolved nations can also access support through the applicable ways mentioned below.


  • Key differences:
    • There will be a phased return of pupils to school, with  all primary school pupils currently able to go to school in person, and most secondary school pupils able attend on a part time basis. All pupils are expected to return full time after the Easter holidays.
    • A National Helpline is available for people who are shielding or self-isolating to get help with essential items like food or medicine: 0800 111 4000
    • Shielding advice is expected to remain in place in Scotland until 26 April
  • A full summary of lockdown restrictions in Scotland is available on the Government website here >>


  • Key differences
    • The Government guidance will change from “stay at home” to “stay local” from 13 March.
    • The Welsh Government have announced that all primary school pupils and secondary school pupils in years 11 and 13 will be able to return to school from 15 March. Full opening of schools is expected after the Easter holidays.
    • Guidance for CEV people in Wales is available here >>
    • CEV people are encouraged to contact their local authority directly if they require additional support to get essentials like food and medicine.
  • A full summary of Lockdown (Tier 4) measures in Wales is available on the Government website here >>

Northern Ireland

  • Primary school pupils and and students in Years 12 to 14 are able to attend school in person. Special schools remain open as normal. It is expected that all other pupils can return to in person education from 12 April.
  • Guidance for CEV people in Northern Ireland is available here >>
  • Shielding advice in Northern Ireland is expected to end from 12 April.
  • More information on the restrictions in place in Northern Ireland is available on the Government website here >>


Sources and further reading

The full summary of lockdown restrictions, published by the UK Government and applicable in England: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

The full Government guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people in England: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

The Government definition of ‘vulnerable children’ exempt from school closures: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

If you would like to connect with others facing similar challenges during this time, you can find out more and join the WellChild Family Tree for mutual support and advice here >> 

This page is no longer updated. Last reviewed 30/03/21

Callum Campbell, WellChild Family Information Officer


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