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Children with diabetes get raw deal at school

Children’s health is being put at serious risk and thousands of families are suffering both emotionally and financially because of a lack of support for children with diabetes in schools.

These are the findings of a survey out today, on World Diabetes Day.

School staff are often not given the training they need to help children with diabetes manage their condition on a daily basis or in an emergency, which is putting these youngsters’ health in danger.

Pressures on families

In addition, 70 per cent of schools said that where children with diabetes are unable to inject themselves with insulin, parents have to come in and do it for them. This is unacceptable, as it can alienate and isolate children from school life and have serious repercussions for families.

Effective policies needed

The survey is from a coalition of Diabetes UK, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), INPUT, and UK Children with Diabetes Advocacy Group, who have joined forces to call on the Government, Local Education Authorities (LEAs) and schools to develop and implement effective policies to support children and young people with diabetes during school hours. We want every school in England to have a policy that includes guidance on working with school nurses, teachers, support staff and paediatric diabetes teams.

Although some policies covering children and medications are already in place and successful, the survey (of LEAs and schools in England) showed that many of them are often not detailed enough, not up to date and do not address the issues of concern.

Training and knowledge are vital

School staff need to be given the appropriate training and knowledge to help children successfully manage their diabetes and avoid putting their health at risk. This is vital, as results from the recently published National Diabetes Audit revealed that 83 per cent of children are not achieving recommended blood glucose levels, increasing their risk of developing serious complications of diabetes.

Children missing out

The coalition is also concerned that some children with diabetes are missing out on a full education by being excluded from sports, school trips and extra curricular activities. Reasons for exclusion include school staff’s fears over a lack of training to care for pupils with the condition and worries about liability.

“This research confirms what too many parents have been telling us - that children with diabetes get a raw deal at school," said Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK.

“Every aspect of school life is important, whether it’s access to the support needed to manage a child’s diabetes and protect their long-term health, or crucial social elements like sports and trips."

Most of the children affected by these issues have Type 1 diabetes, for which the peak age of diagnosis is 10-14 years old.

Celebrity support

Cricket legend Ian Botham and his wife Cathy, whose daughter has Type 1 diabetes, have lent their support to the coalition's campaign. "There are over 20,000 children under 15 years old with diabetes in the UK. The sooner we help families by getting a joined-up approach to helping school children live with the condition, the sooner these young people will be able to enjoy their childhood like others their age," they said.

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