Covid-19

How the latest Covid-19 restrictions may affect your family

As the UK continues to relax Covid-19 restrictions, we have gathered some of the Government guidance relevant to families with a child with complex needs.

By Callum Campbell · Published: September 21, 2021

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

As the UK continues to relax Covid-19 restrictions, 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>>

Children removed from the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) category

The Department of Health and Social Care recently sent letters to parents 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 >>

Conrol measures in place in schools

  • Face coverings are no longer requirement for pupils in schools in England. Pupils are advised to wear masks when on buses or other public transport to and from school.
  • A range of other 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 from DFE 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.
  • Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 has to self isolate.
  • Under 18s no longer have to isolate if they come into contact with someone who later tests positive for Covid-19.

Work

  • The advice asking people to work from home where they can is no longer in place. This may change over the winter if cases rise.
  • The Government stresses that employers have a legal responsibility to protect their employees from risks to their health and safety and that “your employer should be able to explain to you the measures they have in place to keep you safe at work”. Read more advice about work for CEV people and their families on the Government website here >>

Social contact

  • All legal limits on on social contact, the number of people who can meet, and laws requiring people to wear masks and social distance have been dropped.
  • Although there is no legal requirement for people to stay two metres apart or wear a mask inside, there are some places where people may be asked to wear a mask, like on public transport in London or  in health settings. Some companies may also ask people to wear masks on their premises.
  • People who are fully vaccinated or under 18 will not need to self-isolate after close contact with someone who has COVID-19. You’ll still need to take a PCR test and self-isolate if it’s positive, or if you have symptoms.

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

Scotland has now moved out of the levels system

  • There are no longer any restrictions on people meeting.
  • Face coverings are still mandatory on public transport and in public indoor venues, including hospitality venues. A list of all the places wear face coverings must be worn can be found here >>
  • Secondary school aged children and young people should wear a face covering at school when inside.

Wales moved to alert level 0 restrictions on 7th August. These restrictions are similar to those in place in England, with the following differences:

  • You must wear a face covering on public transport and many public indoor spaces like shops. There is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering in hospitality venues, like cafes and pubs.
  • You should work from home if you can.
  • Fully vaccinated adults, under 18s and vaccine trial participants will not need to self-isolate if they are a close contact of someone with coronavirus. You must still isolate if you develop coronavirus symptoms or if someone in your household develops coronavirus symptoms.

The Government in Northern Ireland is planning to relax some of its Covid restrictions on 26 July. This means that stricter restrictions remain in place in Northern Ireland in comparison with the rest of the UK. Restrictions include:

  • Up to 10 people from 3 households can meet in a private home and stay overnight. Children under 12 do not count towards the total. If one of the households has 10 or more members, the maximum is increased to 15 people from no more than three households.
  • Up to 15 people (including children of all ages) can meet in a private garden. Up to 30 people can meet in an outdoor public space without a risk assessment needing to be carried out.
  • You can form a bubble with another household. The bubble can be of any size, but indoor meetings between households in a bubble together are limited to a maximum of 10 people (not counting under 12s).
  • 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:

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

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 21 September 2021

Next review due 28 September 2021