The mum of an eight-year-old girl who has been too sick to return to school one year since catching coronavirus has joined calls for the Scottish Government to provide more support to youngsters with long Covid.
This week marks one year since Helen Goss’ family caught coronavirus but it is her eight-year-old daughter Anna who continues to suffer daily debilitating symptoms.
The Westhill youngster has missed most of the last school year at Crombie School, suffers daily from fatigue, migraines and severe stomach pain.
The primary four pupil tried to return to school in August but felt “really unwell”, finding normal classroom noises “unbearable”, as well as suffering from panic attacks and dizziness in class.
Ms Goss says she feels like the Scottish Government is “dragging its feet” over offering support, not just with adults who suffer from long Covid but particularly with children who have the condition.
Scottish Conservative candidate for Aberdeenshire West, Alexander Burnett, who was contacted by Ms Goss, wrote to the Scottish Government asking what educational support is available for children with long Covid who are too unwell to return to school.
Mr Burnett is also calling for specific data to be urgently published on the “true extent of the problem” in Scotland, along with official guidance on what extra support is available.
Official data from the ONS found 13% of under and about 15% of 12 to 16-year-olds reported at least one symptom five weeks after a confirmed Covid-19 infection.
However, Education Secretary John Swinney said it was up to individual schools to look after the needs of children with long Covid.
Ms Goss says her family have been “incredibly lucky” with the support provided by Anna’s school who have “bent over backwards” to help them.
The eight-year-old has been set up with e-Sgoil, an online education system launched by Western Isles Council in 2016 to improve subject choice in the geographically scattered islands.
However, her mum, who is in contact with other parents via online support groups, believes their positive experience is “in the minority”, claiming there are “a lot of kids going without education right now”.
She adds: “They’re too poorly to go to school so it’s not like they’re feeling a little bit under the weather.
“When we tried to get Anna into school in September, October and November, her teacher was telling me she looked so tired she thought she was about to fall asleep on her desk.”
Concerns for the future
While, e-Sgoil has allowed Anna to continue lessons at home, Ms Goss has concerns over future provision.
Funding is in place to keep e-Sgoil operating at its current capacity till the end of the current financial year in March 2022.
Anna, who is now under the care of a paediatrician, and her parents, are due to meet with the school after the Easter holidays to discuss her education and health needs but the situation is “fluid, fast moving and uncertain”.
Helen is among those calling for the creation of dedicated long Covid clinics in Scotland.
This is in contrast with the situation down south, where NHS England provided £10 million to fund a network of clinics for those suffering from the long-term symptoms of coronavirus.
There are now more than 70 operating across England.
However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon previously said that while she has not ruled out setting up dedicated clinics, there is “not sufficient understanding” of the condition.
Ms Goss adds: “I do truly believe that if we had long Covid clinics in Scotland it would take a huge amount of pressure off the GPs, off the hospitals.
“If we had a one-stop shop and people who are knowledgeable in long Covid itself.
“At the moment we are a year on and its taken up to now and we still don’t have an official diagnosis.
She’s always been dismissed.”
Helen Goss, mum of Anna.
“If there were dedicated long Covid clinics then we could have had a diagnosis a long time ago and then figured out a treatment plan for her.
“It’s been a real battle to get anyone to listen to us, to see her.
“She’s always been dismissed and despite the fact she’s not well enough to go to school, they’re all like we can’t find anything so just go home and rest.
“It’s like if she’s not in a life-threatening condition then go home and rest.”
Mr Burnett, who is standing as Scottish Conservative candidate for Aberdeenshire West, backs Ms Goss’ calls for more educational support for children in Anna’s position.
He says: “The Scottish Government must work with councils to ensure extra support can be given to pupils who have to stay at home because of long Covid.
“Families are clearly worried because of the lack of clarity and help surrounding the condition.
“It’s vital children who are suffering from long Covid are given the same learning opportunities as others.”
In response to a written question from Mr Burnett, Mr Swinney said: “Where a child or young person is absent from school due to the effects of long Covid, schools should take this into account when deciding upon the most appropriate form of educational support whilst they remain absent.”