A lawyer for special needs children has criticised local authorities and clinical commissioning groups for bending the law in attempts to avoid paying for special support in schools for diabetic children
Described as ‘a worrying trend’ by Imogen Jolley who is head of Education at law firm Simpson Millar, a number of local authrities and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) have begun passing the buck on funding support for young people with Type 1 Diabetes to schools.
Type 1 diabetes creates special educational needs under the definition set out in the Children and Families Act. If a young person’s blood sugar is not in range then they will not be able to function appropriately at school – potentially losing concentration, or missing hours of learning per week because of treatment or recovery from hypo or hyper glycaemia.
Until recently, most large local authorities had accepted that children with Type 1 Diabetes needed additional support in school through either high needs funding or the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) route.
But now, a number of local authorities and CCGs are arguing that the Children and Families Act places the responsibility of supporting children with medical conditions on schools. Students with Type 1 Diabetes attending schools that cannot find the budget to make the extensive provision, which is sometimes necessary, have to pay for it themselves.
Imogen says: “Support for children with Diabetes which was previously in place is now at risk across the country. We are receiving a growing number of calls for help from parents who have been told by their local authority that their child with Type 1 Diabetes no longer qualifies for extra funding.
“Type 1 diabetes can have a devastating impact on a person’s ability to concentrate and learn. Claiming that it is purely a medical issue and refusing a child a statutory assessment for an EHCP is neither fair nor lawful. But this is exactly what a growing number of local authorities are doing.
“This is a costs saving measure which is leaving vulnerable children with life threatening conditions unsafe in schools.”
Some CCGs are trying to absolve themselves of the responsibility of funding support for pupils with medical conditions in school, by relying on the children’s continuing health care legislation. On the other side of the fence, local authorities are saying that the challenges for pupils with Type 1 diabetes are medical and not educational.
Imogen says: “Type 1 is classed as a disability and if a young person is unable to take advantage of the facilities available at school because of their medical condition, then they fulfil the definition of having special educational needs. Practically, it could mean being unable to access education, eat in the dining room and even be left in the playground without support.”
One of the roles of CCGs is to strengthen links between health services and schools, and to ensure that the health services needs of individuals are met.
Imogen adds: “CCGs and local authorities are ignoring their responsibility to cooperate in supporting schools who have children with medical conditions and special educational needs. Instead of making joint commissioning arrangements for children with SEN or disabilities, they are seeking to evade responsibility in a bid to save money.”
Imogen says parents of children with Type 1 are legally entitled to additional funding either through the CCG or by getting their child an Education and Health Care Plan.
She explains: “Putting in place a blanket policy to void responsibility for these children is against the law which very clearly demands an assessment of the individualised needs of each particular child.
“We have worked with some of the leading diabetes specialists in the country in successfully challenging local authorities regarding this issue, and will continue to do so until this practice is stopped.”