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Mum takes on Manchester United for son with diabetes

Diabetes UK supporter Sonya Bithell and son Samuel, 9, took part in an interview with BBC Breakfast on Tuesday 14 June to help Diabetes UK raise awareness of how people with diabetes should not be treated unfairly or differently because of their diabetes.

A year-long campaign

Samuel was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2009 when he was seven years old. Samuel is able to manage his blood glucose levels throughout the day but needs an adult to administer his insulin injections in the morning and evening.

Sonya contacted Manchester United Soccer School (MUSS) in April 2010 to book Samuel on one of their residential courses for his birthday. The course was for five nights where the children stay away from home. However, when MUSS found out that Samuel had Type 1 diabetes they said he would not be able to take part in the course.

Sonya contested their stance and fought MUSS for a year. With the help of Diabetes UK and the Equality of Human Rights Commission, MUSS finally agreed that they would allow Samuel to attend the course providing Sonya was able to stay nearby and give Samuel his insulin herself. This was an option that had not been given to her a year earlier.

Sonya said: “Ever since Samuel was diagnosed we have always taught him that his diabetes should never hold him back or stop him from doing anything in life. So when MUSS said they wouldn’t allow him to take part in their residential course because of his diabetes I felt like a hypocrite.

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"Samuel doesn't need one to one care, he just needs a little bit of support and simple adjustments could have been made to try and accommodate him.

“It was the principle of it that made me keep fighting them as I didn't believe Samuel should be excluded. That's why I'm supporting Diabetes UK's Diabetes Week campaign in order to try and educate more people about the condition and change public perception."

People with diabetes should not be excluded

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “There is no reason why people with diabetes should be treated unfairly or differently because of their diabetes. It is a condition that can be managed with support and understanding and simple adjustments can always be made to make sure people are not excluded.

“One million people across the UK could be risking their health by keeping their diabetes secret and we know many people do so for fear of discrimination. Lack of understanding is the root of the problem and that’s why Diabetes UK is raising awareness of the importance of talking about diabetes to reduce the stigma associated with the condition."

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