MP backs call for schools to support children with long-term health conditions

MP John Healey has backed calls for schools to better support children with type 1 diabetes and other long-term health conditions.

He supported an amendment to the Children and Families Bill calling for the new law to include statutory responsibilities for schools to put plans in place to help such pupils.

Mr Healey has backed similar calls in the past, talking to Rotherham children about coping with diabetes and supporting a private members bill.

The MP told the Commons yesterday: “Four years ago, I met an inspiring young woman called Emma Smith. She was 12 years old, from Dalton in Rotherham, and I was her MP. She was on a lobby for Diabetes UK to the House. I met her here, and met her and her family at home. I also met a couple of other young children and students at school in Rotherham who were suffering from diabetes.

“They described a lack of recognition and appreciation by staff at school of their condition and a lack of knowledge about what they had to do to manage it for themselves. They described a suspicion, sometimes, of the needles they had to use to inject insulin.

“Occasionally there was nowhere for them to do those injections during the school day. They also spoke of friends of theirs with similar problems who had been forbidden from eating or going to the toilet during lessons when they needed to because of their condition.

“The problem of other students, fellow pupils, teachers and staff not knowing about the conditions that many children may have makes managing those conditions more difficult. Often it also holds children back at school and it may sometimes even put their health at risk, so better provision, better support and a better policy framework are needed.

“Almost two thirds—just under 60%—of schools that have children with diabetes have no policy in place to guide staff on the matter of injections on the premises.

“I want our children who have special health conditions to be able to enjoy school to the full, to fulfil their potential and to feel confident that those around them know what to do because they understand their conditions.

“I always remember Emma Smith saying to me: “I would feel a lot happier if people at school knew what to do if for any reason I was unable to treat myself.” That seems to be the very least that this House and this legislation should provide.”

The new clause in the Bill would mean schools would have “a duty to produce and implement a medical conditions policy that defines how it plans to support the needs of children with specified health conditions.”

Mr Healey also attended a meeting in Parliament last week organised by Diabetes UK where he met the charity’s chief executive and children who struggle with the condition.

Diabetes UK have found while many schools provide good support for children with health conditions, others do not, leaving many children excluded from school activities and some parents having to go into school to provide care.