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Lack of support for kids with diabetes at school

Posted Sep 13 2008 11:42pm

Children with diabetes’ health seriously at risk as schools are not providing support

A survey from a coalition of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Diabetes UK, INPUT and UK Children with Diabetes Advocacy Group reveals that 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 type 1 diabetes in schools.

School staff are often not given the training they need to help children with type 1 diabetes manage their condition on a daily basis or in an emergency, which is putting these youngsters’ health in danger. In addition, 70 per cent of schools said that where children with type 1 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.

The coalition is calling on Government, Local Education Authorities (LEAs) and schools to develop and implement effective policies to support children and young people with type 1 diabetes during school hours. Every school in England should have a policy which 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 showed that many of them are often not detailed enough, not up to date and do not address the issues of concern. School staff need to be given the appropriate training and knowledge to help children successfully manage their type 1 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 type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes requires continuous management to achieve good blood glucose control, which can reduce the chances of developing short term complications such as unconsciousness, fits and comas, as well as long term complications like blindness, amputation and heart and kidney disease.

The coalition is also concerned that some children with type 1 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 type 1 diabetes and worries about liability.

Karen Addington, Chief Executive of JDRF in the UK, said: “Diabetes is a legally recognised disability and all children with type 1 diabetes have the right to appropriate onsite care to enable them to take part in a full school life, including extra-curricular activities. The current situation can not be allowed to continue. Local Education Authorities and schools must collectively take responsibility and work together to put the needs of children with type 1 diabetes, in the classroom, first.”

Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, commented: “This research confirms what too many parents have been telling us - that children with diabetes get a raw deal at school. 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. The sooner LEAs, school staff and healthcare professionals implement a joined-up approach to helping school children live with the condition, the sooner these young people can enjoy their childhood like others their age.”

Children with type 1 diabetes require multiple daily blood tests and insulin injections to effectively manage their condition. The survey found that during school hours, parents - usually mothers - are required to go in at break and lunchtimes to provide treatment for their child. The implications of this can be detrimental for the whole family.

Lack of funding for schools is another major obstacle that prevents children receiving adequate care. Although 50 per cent of the LEAs that responded to the survey said they have funding to support children with diabetes in schools, 70 per cent of schools do not know the funding is available. Addington concludes: “If the funding for schools is there, why are they not being informed of it? Education is at the very heart of this Government’s policy agenda and we would urge them to ensure that children with type 1 diabetes are not being left behind.”
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