Diabetes UK has welcomed a "major step" announced by the Government in Parliament today to help ensure children with long-term health condition such as Type 1 diabetes, epilepsy and asthma receive the support they need while at school.
Following months of campaigning by Diabetes UK and a number of other charities, the Government has announced that it will amend the Children and Families Bill so that all schools, including free schools and academies, will be required by law to make appropriate arrangements for supporting pupils with long-term health needs. This will be supported by new statutory guidance that will be issued next year.
Diabetes UK has called the Government's intervention a "major step" but has warned that while it has the potential to make a huge difference for children with long-term health conditions, this will only happen if it is supported by clear and appropriate statutory guidance, which will help schools understand what they need to do and how to do it. The charity is now working with the Government to ensure that this guidance includes plans to put in place appropriate policies, individual care plans and training and support for school staff.
The charity says it is also essential that local health and education authorities support schools so that their staff are trained to correctly and confidently look after children with long-term health conditions.
Under the current system, children with long-term health needs do not always get the additional support in school they need as a result of their condition. While some schools already offer excellent support for children with health conditions, there are many examples where children experience avoidable ill health and are effectively excluded from fully participating in their education and hindered in meeting their full academic potential.
A difference to the lives of around a million children
Caroline Moore, Diabetes UK Director for Planning and Support Services, said, "The Government's announcement that it will amend the Children and Families Bill so that schools have a legal duty to support children with health needs has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of around a million children.
"We are delighted Lord Nash has listened to our concerns and recognises that too many children with health conditions such as Type 1 diabetes are currently being excluded from participating in normal school life because their schools do not understand their condition and are not able to support them. Lord Nash's decision will bring real hope to many families who are struggling to get the support they need.
"But while this is a major step in the right direction, the legal duty on its own will not be enough to solve the problem. This will need to be backed up with robust statutory guidance that makes it clear what schools need to do to support the wellbeing of children with health needs. Schools will need to work with parents, local authorities and health services so that they have both a policy and individual health care plans in place.
"The fact that some education providers do this at the moment shows that it can be done, but unless this guidance is in place there is a risk that the announcement of the statutory duty will be a false dawn rather than the better tomorrow that children with long-term health conditions deserve."