The Children and Families Bill – an update
We all know that going to school can be tough for children with Type 1. Though many schools provide good support for children with Type 1, there are alarmingly frequent accounts of the children left on their own when having hypos, the parents who have to give up work to go in to inject insulin and the countless stories of children excluded from school trips or only allowed to attend if their parent can make it too. Then there are the children who are excluded for months at a time because of a lack of support. These difficulties are also mirrored for many children who live with other health conditions.
Over the last seven months as the Children and Families Bill has been going through parliament we have been calling on the Government to include legal responsibilities on schools to look after children with diabetes and other health conditions properly.
Well, we have now found out the government has listened! They plan to introduce a legal duty on all schools to support children with diabetes and other medical conditions by September next year. We thank the Department for Education and the minister, Lord Nash, for this fundamental step forward. A huge thank-you also to all the families and children with Type 1 diabetes who wrote and spoke to civil servants and Ministers and brilliantly told their stories to bring home just how bad it can be if the school can’t provide the right support.
The introduction of a legal duty is a significant step for the government to take. But there is still an awful lot of work to do to make sure this new legal duty has a practical effect and makes the lives of children with diabetes in schools easier.
The new law will say schools must make arrangements for supporting children with medical conditions and that schools must follow the Department for Education’s guidance on supporting children with medical conditions.
Diabetes UK, other health charities and trade unions also wanted to see more detailed duties on schools to be included in the Children and Families Bill. We wanted a requirement on every school to have a medical conditions policy. We wanted a legal requirement on schools to agree an Individual Healthcare Plan for every child with a health condition. We still would like there to be a duty on the NHS to make sure teachers and school staff get the training they need to support and look after children with a health condition with confidence.
We will be working hard over the next few months to make sure these things will be covered in the guidance the Department of Education will publish. We will only know the true value of this new duty on schools once that document exists (and we have been invited to help them develop it).
In February, when we first asked the government to include a duty on schools in the Children and Families Bill we received a response which informed us a lack of support was only an issue for a small number of parents. We knew this wasn’t true.
Thanks to Diabetes Voices and other Diabetes UK supporters we have let MPs, Lords, Government Ministers and civil servants know how widespread the problem is and just how devastating a lack of support in schools can be. Some of you have written letters, some of you have gone to Westminster and some have appeared in the media. Others have let us know the difficulties their family has faced, while two families took their stories to Lord Nash, the Minister in the House of Lords.
All of these contributions have been invaluable in helping the government change its mind. We are extremely grateful for all you support and this simply would not have happened without your voices demanding change.
While we are pleased to hear the government’s plans we are under no illusions that until things improve for children with diabetes in schools, the problem is not solved. This is why we will continue to campaign to make sure the duty on schools and guidance to schools is as strong and effective as possible and that it is implemented fully.
And this is why we need your help again. Placing a duty on schools will signal the need for change to those schools who currently don’t do well but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll magically provide wonderful support. But we know a lot of schools do look after children with Type 1 brilliantly. If your child gets fantastic support then please let us know so we can share their knowledge with those that are struggling to do a good job for children with Type 1.
We will be asking for more help in the coming months to make the guidance as good as possible but in the meantime if your child’s school provides brilliant support please email us at email@example.com or ring 020 7424 1008.