One of the main difficulties is in relation to the provision of lunchtime insulin injections for those children who are on three or more injections a day.
Current Guidance - Supporting Pupils with Medication Needs
Issued jointly by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Department of Education, the guidance indicates that a child's medical needs are the parents prime responsibility. It also states that while school staff can volunteer to carry out the administration of medication there is absolutely no legal obligation on them to do so.
Teachers and classroom assistants are therefore not obliged to assist and many of them feel reluctant or uncomfortable about volunteering.
If a school agrees to administer medication
The Guidance indicates that some non-teaching staff may be on contracts within which this role is included. If they, or any other staff, do volunteer to undertake such duties the guidance indicates that they should be supported, given full training and reassured about their legal liability.
What currently happens in Northern Ireland?
Working with paediatric diabetes specialist nurses and the Diabetes UK Parents Groups, it has been possible to 'map' the extent of the problem in Northern Ireland.
Currently in Northern Ireland some children are unable to access a lunchtime insulin injection due to both parents working and no-one at the school taking on the responsibility. In the current climate many families require both parents to work but some parents (including single parents) have had to reduce working hours, change career or give up their job entirely.
In cases where no-one is available to inject (as some parents have to work) some children have to go on to a lesser regimen which doesn't include lunchtime insulin. As a result these children can suffer from unstable blood glucose levels and research has demonstrated that this has a negative effect on cognitive ability. This can also result in increased absence from school due to illness.
In cases where a parent is available to inject, the child's attendance at school is totally reliant on the parent. As a result, there are times when because of bad weather, caring for other family members or the parent themselves falling sick, the child has to be kept off school. The parents are reluctant to do this and worry about their child falling behind but feel they have no other option.
If you have been or are affected
Current guidance would indicate that a parent or family member is responsible for providing the lunchtime injection and the only way to change this would be to argue for a change in the Guidelines.
If however, no-one is available to provide an injection or it is having a serious impact on family life i.e. you have to give up work or care for someone else, then you can approach the school and the Education and Library Board to ask for some assistance.
Diabetes UK Northern Ireland continues to work with the Department to find a solution to the provision of luinchtime insulin so please get in touch and let us know how you have been affected.
Email your story and you will be included on the Children's Campaign Group which is then emailed updates, information and requests as appropriate.