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Question Time event gives a voice to schoolchildren with long-term conditions

More than 40 secondary school children with different long-term conditions attended a Question Time-style event yesterday at the Houses of Parliament.

The event was organised by an alliance of more than 30 health charities and gave schoolchildren the opportunity to grill MPs about the lack of health support and awareness of conditions at school.

There are at least a million children of school age in England who have a health condition, many of whom are struggling at school, as the support they need to manage their condition is not in place. The alliance of charities is calling for support at school to be a statutory duty.

Representing schoolchildren with diabetes

Amber Clarke, 12, from Bridgwater (pictured above with Jim Cousins MP), Jake Westcott, 12, from Tring, and Jessica Bowen, 16, from Newcastle, represented children with diabetes and put their questions to the panel.

The panel

BBC newscaster and 'The Politics Show' presenter, Jon Sopel, chaired the panel, comprising:

  • Diana Johnson MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Children, Schools and Families
  • the Shadow Ministers for Children, Schools and Families, Tim Loughton MP and Annette Brooke MP
  • Dr Sheila Shribman, National Clinical Director for Children, Young People and Maternity Services
  • Jim Cunningham MP, who put forward the Schools (Health Support) Bill as his Private Members’ Bill in May this year.

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The panel, left to right: Tim Loughton, Sheila Shribman, Jim Cunningham, Jon Sopel (Chair), Helen Southworth, Annette Brooke

After the event, the children and their parents had the opportunity to meet with their MPs to discuss the issues in more detail.

Amber's experiences

Amber Clarke (pictured here with with her MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger) said: “I’ve had diabetes for just over two years now and I have had some really bad experiences at school.

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"Before I started at one school, my mother had meetings with staff and provided information about diabetes. But even that didn’t always work, I once got shouted at to leave the classroom because I was having a snack in class, because my blood glucose level was low and I was in a hypo.

"The school have tried since then to make my care better, but the lack of information and back up to the school has caused more problems for me.

“It was very important to me to be at this event because it gave me and many other children the chance to let the people in power know what needs to happen to improve the lives of all schoolchildren with health conditions.”

Discrimination puts health and education at risk

Donna Castle, Campaigns Manager at Diabetes UK, said: “We want the Government to listen to our issues and understand that the current voluntary approach for schools to provide support for children with health conditions is just not working.

"The discrimination that many children face due to their condition is putting their health and education at risk. It’s time to end this education system lottery.”

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