There are 20,000 children under the age of 15 with Type 1 diabetes in the UK.
Sadly, too many of them get a raw deal at school - some of them are excluded from school trips or other curricular activities, others have been prevented from having snacks when they need to in order to maintain their blood glucose levels, and some parents have been forced to give up work in order to go into school to monitor blood glucose levels and administer insulin as there's no one available who can do this for young children.
Moreover, Diabetes UK has found that schools could be putting the health of up to 84% (an estimated 6,500 children) of 5 - 11 year olds with diabetes at risk. Schools have a vital part to play in supporting the daily management of diabetes in children. It is a life long condition which if poorly managed can lead to the development of complications such as blindness, heart and kidney disease and amputations, later on in life.
Diabetes UK believes that all children with diabetes should receive the support they need to effectively manage their condition at school. We are calling for the Government to be proactive and strengthen existing legislation so that children with diabetes and or any health condition are recognised as a vulnerable group and their well-being is properly supported. We urge the Government to take action on the following recommendations:
The general duty on school governing bodies to promote pupil well-being under the Education and Inspections Act 2006, should explicitly include the well-being of children with long-term conditions. This means the Department for Children, Schools and Families should issue a regulation using a Statutory Instrument, to require schools (governors and local authorities as employers) to have medicines policies and to provide trained support for children with long term conditions. The
Government needs to be pro-active and place specific duties on schools/employers and local authorities to ensure schools fulfil their duty to promote pupil well-being, as well as their common law duty of care, and their equalities and anti-discrimination duties under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Ofsted should routinely inspect whether schools have clear medicines policies and procedures to support children with diabetes and other long-term conditions. This requirement should be reflected in the new school indicators for Ofsted due to take effect in 2009. Current inspection of schools does not give clear attention to the needs of children with long-term conditions. Inspection is key to ensuring that schools have proper policies for supporting this vulnerable group, and whether they are implemented, regularly reviewed and updated.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) should take urgent action to gather and publish information on the actual numbers of children in primary and secondary schools that have a long-term condition. The Government and local services should know the number of children at school with long-term conditions, and the number of children with a disability, the fact that education, health and social care services do not have a common definition of disability must also be addressed.
In November 2008, more than 220 children with diabetes joined a Diabetes UK lobby of Parliament to ask MPs to improve support in schools in England. As a result of meeting his constituent, Jim Cunningham MP has introduced a Private Members' Bill to address this issue. The Bill proposes to amend existing legislation to establish standards in schools for the support of children with specified health conditions, and place a duty on Ofsted to monitor whether this is provided.
If you would like to support our campaign, please ask your MP to back the Schools (Health Support) Bill at its second reading on 8 May 2009, by taking part in our e-campaign here: http://www.diabetes.org.uk/E-campaigning