How the latest Covid-19 restrictions may affect your family

As the UK starts to relax Covid-19 restrictions after a long winter lockdown, 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>>

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) people

  • NHS run services across the UK are functioning and you should seek support for your child’s existing health conditions as you normally would.
  • As Covid-19 infection rates have slowed down, the Government is no longer officially advising CEV people to shield. This means that the same restrictions apply to everyone regardless of whether they are CEV.
  • In a few rare cases, some children will have been advised to continue shielding after 1 April by a clinician.
  • Although shielding advice is no longer in place, CEV people are encouraged to take extra precautions, like limiting social contact with people outside their bubble as much as possible.

Schools

  • All children should have returned to in-person education. This includes most children who were previously shielding.
  • A very small number of children will not be able to return to in-person education if they have been specifically advised by their clinician not to.
  • The Department For Education (DFE) recommends that children in year 7 or above should wear face coverings at school when they are indoors and social distancing cannot be maintained. This means that face coverings will be worn in corridors and communal areas in schools, as well as in some classrooms.
  • Some children are exempt from wearing face coverings at school, including children “who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress”
  • A range of other infection control measures have been introduced in schools, including rapid testing. All pupils and staff will be tested for coronavirus 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 the test. You should contact your school directly if you have any questions or concerns about testing.

Socialising

Latest update – from 12 April:

  • Outdoor meetings between two households or up to six people from more than two households are permitted. People in your support bubble count as people in your household.
  • Non-essential retail, outdoor hospitality venues, hairdressers, and public buildings like libraries and community centres have reopened.
  • All children’s activities can resume, including indoor parent and children groups, with up to 15 attendees. Under 5s do not count towards the 15 attendee limit.

Next changes, dependent on cases continuing to fall and the Government tests being met – from 17 May

  • Up to 30 people will be able to meet outdoors. 6 people will be able to meet indoors.
  • There may be relaxation of social distancing rules for friends and family.
  • More indoor businesses like restaurants will reopen.

The full Government roadmap out of lockdown can be found on their website here >>

Differences in Scotland

All areas of Scotland have now moved to Protection Level 3. This means that CEV people are no longer advised to shield and all children are expected to attend school in person.

Unless exempt, children of secondary school age are required to wear face coverings in the classroom.

Outside, up to six people from six different households can meet in a public place or private garden. Under 12s do not count towards the maximum number of people allowed to meet.

Unlike in England, indoor hospitality has reopened. In indoor settings such as cafe’s and pubs, up to 6 people from 2 different households can meet. However, under 12s do count towards the 6 person limit in indoor settings.

Non-essential childcare is now permitted.

Differences in Wales

A maximum of 6 people from 6 different households can meet outdoors. The limits on socialising outdoors in Wales do not include children under 11 or carers.

Organised outdoor activities are permitted for up to 30 people.

 

Differences in Northern Ireland

Up to 10 people (including children of all ages) from a maximum of two households can meet outdoors.

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.

Support available to families

  • You can also 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.

Children who require aerosol generating procedures (AGP) at school

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)
    • bi-level positive airway pressure ventilation (BiPAP)
    • continuous positive airway pressure ventilation (CPAP)
    • respiratory tract suctioning beyond the oro-pharynx
  • Regarding suctioning, a footnote in the guidance states: “Currently, only open suctioning beyond the oro-pharynx is considered an AGP – oral or pharyngeal suctioning is not an AGP. The evidence on respiratory tract suctioning is being reviewed by the AGP panel.”
  • 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 >>

Sources and further reading

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

Scotland’s restrictions under protection level 3: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-protection-levels/pages/protection-level-3/

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

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 >> 

The information on this page is reviewed weekly. Last reviewed 07/05/21

Callum Campbell, WellChild Family Information Officer

callumcampbell@wellchild.org.uk