Risk to clinically vulnerable children ‘forgotten’ as Covid-19 restrictions lift

Fiona Simpson
Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Families and professionals have accused the government of “forgetting” clinically vulnerable children as the Prime Minister announced plans to end Covid-19 restrictions in England.

Parents say they are "terrified" about sending children with disabilities back to school. Picture: Adobe Stock
Parents say they are "terrified" about sending children with disabilities back to school. Picture: Adobe Stock

Boris Johnson looks set to green light plans to scrap the use of masks and social distancing from 19 July.

From the same date, masks will no longer be mandatory in school or on school transport and pupils will no longer need to self-isolate if someone in their class or year group “bubble” tests positive for the virus.

Staff and pupils who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) “may wish to take extra precautions”, the Department for Education has said, but they are no longer asked to shield.

However, families of CEV children, who are not eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine if they are under 18, and organisations supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have hit out at the government over “forgetting” them. 

Campaign group Clinically Vulnerable CV/CEV Families UK said it is “unthinkable” for some families to send vulnerable children and their siblings back to schools.

“No parent should send their child to school only to face a significant quantifiable threat to health and to life (for themselves and/or their child),” the group wrote on Twitter.

Dr Zubaida Haque, a member of the Independent Sage Group, added that “CEV parents, families and unvaccinated children will be terrified” following the announcements.

She said: “I have had so many CEV adults and parents of CEV children, including children recovering from cancer, or living with diabetes, severe asthma and other illnesses which puts them at higher risk, contacting me on Twitter. They feel helpless, afraid and abandoned by this government.”

Mary Cole, a campaigner for SEND parents and children, added: “As the parent of a CEV child too young to be vaccinated I am beside myself. It feels like CEV children are completely invisible.”

Parents have also raised concerns over the impact of Long Covid on children when isolation bubbles are scrapped as latest DfE data shows 640,100 pupils, or 8.5 per cent of the total pupil population, were off school for Covid-related reasons last Thursday (1 July).

Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor based in Oxford, wrote on Twitter: “No other country in the world is explicitly advocating letting the virus rip. And with good reason. Deaths are not the only metric that matter. Long Covid has shattered 1,000s of lives, including seven per cent of children infected. Where is the government's plan to mitigate these risks?”

Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Coronavirus said last week: “Covid is not like the flu, it can cause long-term serious illness in otherwise young and healthy people including children. Even those who are not hospitalised have a risk of developing this debilitating condition.

“Gavin Williamson must consider the risk posed by long Covid to pupils as part of plans to relax measures in schools.

“The government’s current approach risks condemning thousands more people to live with the cruel impact of long Covid while struggling to access support.”

Last month, the NHS announced it was setting up a raft of paediatric long covid hubs.

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