Covid-19

How the latest Covid-19 restrictions may affect your family

We have gathered some of the latest Government guidance relevant to families who have a child with complex needs.

By Callum Campbell · Published: January 4, 2022

Two face masks in the shape of a cross on a red backgroun

We have gathered some of the Government guidance relevant to families with a child with complex needs. Below are some key points from the current restrictions in England, followed by any differences in guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We also have a separate page with information about vaccines, available here>>

Control measures in place in schools

  • Children in year 7 and above should wear face coverings in classrooms and communal areas.
  • A range of infection control measures have been introduced in schools, including rapid testing. All pupils and staff are encouraged to take coronavirus lateral flow tests regularly to help identify anyone who has the virus but is not showing symptoms. Asymptomatic testing at school is voluntary, but taking regular test should help to keep infection rates low.
  • Schools have been given advice on how to help children with SEND carry out lateral flow tests. You should contact your school directly if you have any questions or concerns about testing.
  • Children and young people aged 17 and under who are identified as coming into contact with someone with cornavirus do not have to self isolate. They should take frequent lateral flow tests instead. If a lateral flow test is possessive, they must self isolate for at least 6 days and can stop self isolating if lateral flow tests on day 5 and 6 both come back negative.

Work

  • The Government is asking people to work from home where they can.
  • Employers have a legal responsibility to protect their employees from risks to their health and safety. Your employer should be able to explain to you the measures they have in put place to keep you safe at work.

Social contact

  • There are no legal limits on social contact, the number of people who can meet, or laws requiring social distancing.
  • Face coverings must be worn in shops, on public transport and in hospitality settings like restaurants and pubs. Some larger venues require proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test to enter.
  • You do not have to self isolate if you come into contact with someone who has coronavirus providing you have received at least two vaccine doses or you are under the age of 18. you should take daily lateral flow tests for seven days. If any of the lateral flow tests comes back positive you must self isolate for at least 6 days. You can stop self isolating if lateral flow tests on day 5 and 6 both come back negative. Non-vaccinated adults have to self isolate for ten days if they come into contact with someone who has coronavirus.
  • Anyone who develops coronavirus symptoms should self isolate and take a PCR test. If the PCR test is positive, you must self isolate for 10 days from the day you took the test, or the day symptoms started. You should take a lateral flow test on the 5th and 6th day of the self isolation period. You can reduce the self isolation period to 6 days if both of these lateral flow test results are negative

The full Government guidance on what people can and cannot do can be found on their website here >>

Children removed from the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) category

The Department of Health and Social Care sent letters to many parents in September informing them that children have been removed from the CEV category.

Many parents have found the change to the CEV category understandably confusing, and feel as though the Government thinks their child’s circumstances have changed. The Government has made this decision based on evidence from three recent studies that suggest that children and young people are at very low risk of serious illness and death from Covid-19. You can read these studies by following the links in the further reading section of this page.

As shielding advice for CEV people recently ended, most children previously classed as CEV would have been expected to return to school for the Autumn term anyway.

The exceptions to the CEV category change will be the small number of children who have been advised by a clinician not to attend school.

What options do parents have now all children are expected back in school?

If you have been advised by a clinician to keep your child off school your school should provide them with remote education.

There is an understandable level anxiety for parents whose children used to be classed as CEV, especially as there are fewer control measures in place in England’s schools than there were last term. If your child has not been advised by a clinician to stay off school, they will be expected to attend. This means that you could face fines for not sending your child to school.

No course of action is entirely risk free, and it is impossible to entirely mitigate the risk of your child catching Covid-19. It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons, thinking about the impact on your child and your family if they are kept out of school, compared to the relatively low risk from Covid-19 for most children who have not been advised by a clinician to not attend school.

On balancing the options, risks and benefits to your child of accessing education, you may decide that your child should go to school.

You may instead decide that school is not currently safe for your child. In this case, you should contact your child’s school to discuss extra measures they could put in place to keep your child safe. It is important to have these conversations, as the school may be able to mitigate risks, or they may allow your child to be absent whilst it remains unsafe.

If the schools will not make any changes to their safety measures or allow your child to remain absent, they will be marked as an “unauthorised” absence. The Local Authority will then decide whether to attempt to impose a fine or prosecute you as a parent. The Good Law Project as a summary of the arguments that could be made in defence of parents who decide to keep their child off school if they are vulnerable to Covid -19. Visit their website for more information >>

Deregistering from school

Deregistering your child from school so they can continue to shield is a massive decision that could have serious ramifications in the future beyond the Covid-19 crisis. All children with special educational needs or a disability are entitled to a suitable education that meets their needs. By deregistering your child, the Local Authority is able to give up its responsibility to provide them with a suitable education. It can then become difficult to access the funding your child may need to receive a proper education.

It is unacceptable for the Local Authority or your child’s school to attempt to force you to deregister your child. This is often referred to as “off rolling”. If you think this is happening to you, visit the IPSEA website for advice >>

Wales has moved to alert level 0 restrictions . These restrictions are similar to those in place in England, with the following differences:

  • A maximum of 6 people can meet in a public premises, for example a pub or cafe.
  • Up to 30 people can attend an indoor event.
  • Up to 50 people can attend an outdoor event.
  • You will need a NHS Covid Pass to enter certain venues like cinemas.
  • Visit the Government website for more information >> 
  • Up to 30 people can meet in domestic settings. It is recommended that no more than three households should meet together.
  • Self isolation rules are largely similar to those in place in England. To find out more, visit the Government website >>
  • You can request volunteer support from NHS Volunteer Responders via an app or by telephone here >>
    • NHS Volunteer Responders can provide support by collecting prescriptions, providing transport to appointments, and more.

After campaigning by parents, professionals, WellChild and many other organisations, the Department For Education (DFE) updated and expanded their guidance for children who require AGP in schools. Read the guidance in full here >> 

The Department For Education has stated: “It is vital that all children [and] young people […] with complex or additional health needs, are supported to continue their education and care in their education or children’s social care setting, where it is safe to do so.” They say they have adapted the guidance to meet the specific needs of the settings, children and young people involved. They also stress the need for a collaborative approach between “education and children’s social care settings, families and local agencies” to find solutions.

Some key points from the updated guidance:

  • Clarification on the procedures classed as AGP. The following procedures are NOT considered AGP:
    • oral or nasal suction
    • the administration of nebulised saline, medication or drugs
    • chest compressions or defibrillation
    • chest physiotherapy
    • the administration of oxygen therapy
    • suctioning as part of a closed system circuit
    • nasogastric tube insertion and feeding
  • The list of procedures still classed as AGP include:
    • non-invasive ventilation (NIV)
    • tracheal intubation and extubation
    • bi-level positive airway pressure ventilation (BiPAP)
    • continuous positive airway pressure ventilation (CPAP)
    • respiratory tract suctioning beyond the oro-pharynx
    • Read the full list here>>
  • Regarding suctioning, a footnote in the guidance states: “only open suctioning beyond the oro-pharynx is currently considered an AGP i.e. oral/pharyngeal suctioning is not an AGP. The evidence on respiratory tract suctioning is currently being reviewed by the AGP Panel […] to review new or further evidence for consideration.”
  • Whilst the guidance states that “ideally” children should still be taken to a separate room for AGP, schools that do not have a suitable separate room can now allow AGP to take place in the classroom, providing anyone not involved with the procedure is 2 meters away and there is a window open for ventilation.
  • Further information for schools on how to source the PPE their staff need to carry out AGP is available here >>
  • The DFE have said “We expect children, young people and learners with complex health needs will be able to return to their education or social care setting without settings needing to make significant changes to their ways of work beyond required adherence to the system of controls”. This further suggests that it is the DFE position that children should no longer be denied access to school because they require AGP.
  • Further information on the full list of AGP in all settings can be found here >>

Links to the studies quoted in the Department For Health and Social Care’s letter to parents informing them that their child is no longer classed as CEV, dated 23 August:

JCVI advice on the UK vaccine response to the Omicron variant: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-vaccine-response-to-the-omicron-variant-jcvi-advice/jcvi-advice-on-the-uk-vaccine-response-to-the-omicron-variant

Covid-19 Response – Autumn and Winter Plan (2021) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1017404/COVID-19-response-autumn-and-winter-plan-2021.pdf

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

Schools operational guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/schools-coronavirus-covid-19-operational-guidance

Government guidance for the full opening of special schools: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-full-opening-special-schools-and-other-specialist-settings/send-and-specialist-settings-additional-operational-guidance-coronavirus-covid-19

Department For Education guidance on face coverings in education: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/976213/Face_coverings_in_education_April_2021.pdf

Guidance for rapid testing in Mainstream secondary schools: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-asymptomatic-testing-in-schools-and-colleges/coronavirus-covid-19-asymptomatic-testing-in-schools-and-colleges and SEND schools: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-full-opening-special-schools-and-other-specialist-settings/send-and-specialist-settings-additional-operational-guidance-coronavirus-covid-19

The UK Government’s roadmap out of lockdown: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-spring-2021/covid-19-response-spring-2021-summary

New measures put in place in response to the Omicron variant (press release): https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-sets-out-new-measures-as-omicron-variant-identified-in-uk-27-november-2021

Scotish Government’s guidance: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

The Welsh Government’s Coronavirus guidance: https://gov.wales/current-restrictions-summary

Northern Ireland restrictions: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-what-restrictions-mean-you

Callum Campbell, Family Information Officer

callumcampbell@wellchild.org.uk

First published 19 July 2021

Last reviewed 04 January 2022

Next review due 11 January 2022