Coronavirus (COVID-19) Act 2020: Can children be detained without their parents’ consent?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Act 2020: Can children be detained without their parents’ consent?

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A number of Facebook posts claims that under the Coronavirus Act 2020, children can be taken out of the school without any knowledge or consent to the parents for 14 days detention if they are COVID-19 positive. Similar type of claims says that 14 days detention can be done without informing their parents and only the teacher will have the knowledge about that particular student.

But the government official says the parents or legal guardian have to be present in person during the time of COVID-19 test done under the powers to Public Health England of the Coronavirus Act. This means that there is no way, the act is giving authority for the detention of children for 14 days without any permission from the parents. If a child came out to be COVID-19 positive then it is most likely that the student will have to self-isolate at home for 14 days with the family.

How does this claim come into the picture?

On March 26, 2020, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England written a letter. In that letter, she asked the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education in regard to the clear picture of the act, how it will going to impact the children.

In the Facebook post, the claimers has used the section which reads, “The Act also introduces new powers to detain children on public health grounds, for a period of up to fourteen days. I agree that this may be necessary in order to prevent the further spread of disease, however I am concerned that the Act allows this to be done without consent from someone with responsibility for the child, and only requires ‘reasonable steps’ to be taken to inform someone with responsibility of the detention.”

This particular section made the Facebook post went viral. Seeing this, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner posted an update that says they had “sought further clarification on the nature of the question posed in many of those posts.”

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In the update, they also said, “We have had confirmation from the DfE and DHSC that a parent, carer or legal guardian has to be present for a screening to take place under these powers.”

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner also added that the government replied, “It is not true that Public Health Officers have the power to screen and assess without a parent or carer present. This power can only be exercised in the presence of an individual with responsibility for the child. The responsible adult under Schedule 21 is a person with parental responsibility for the child within the meaning of the Children Act 1989 or a person who has custody or charge of the child for the time being.”

“In the extremely rare case that 1) these powers are being used and 2) the even rarer case that a child does not have a parent, carer or legal guardian, a Public Health Officer can decide who is the most appropriate adult to be present for a screening. At no point will a child be screened without the most appropriate adult present.”

“Public Health Officers will make the appropriate assessment and restrictions will be placed accordingly. Under these powers they could be asked to self-isolate with their families at home for up to 14 days to stop the spread of coronavirus if they are not voluntarily complying with the public health advice. If the individual is unable to self-isolate at home this will need to be discussed with the Public Health Officer and alternatives discussed”

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It further adds up that a guardian or carer or parents will have the right to appeal to the magistrate’s court if they feel that restrictions are going unfair for the child.

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