Cunningham’s bill wins concessions from government


The government has pledged to issue new guidance to schools on improving health support for pupils with long-term conditions.
The promise came after the second reading of a private members’ bill put together by Labour MP Jim Cunningham, who worked on it with charities such as Asthma UK, Diabetes UK and YoungMinds.
Before the second reading of the schools (health support) bill, five disabled children delivered boxes of letters to the prime minister, asking for improved health support at school.
Campaigners say the health and education of an estimated one million pupils could be at risk, with many of them not fully included in lessons and activities.
The bill’s measures included: a legal duty on schools to offer proper health support for pupils with long-term conditions; a duty on schools, primary care trusts and councils to work together; better staff training; and a healthcare plan for every child with a health condition.
Cunningham told the debate: “Decent health support means that inclusion need not be an illusion. The current voluntary guidance is not working and implementation is patchy.”
Sarah McCarthy-Fry, the schools and learners minister, said the government knew the availability of good support was “a major issue that needs to be addressed”.
But she said identifying barriers, sharing good practice and increasing awareness was the best way forward, rather than imposing a legal duty on schools.
She promised that new government guidance on promoting the wellbeing of pupils would include “specific reference” to the importance of considering the health requirements of pupils with long-term health conditions.
She said the government was addressing the issue of individual health plans in its child health strategy, while its apprenticeships, skills, children and learning bill will force schools to work with primary care trusts and other partners in their local children’s trusts, making it easier for them to access services.
She said the government was also updating guidance on managing medicines in schools, and will run an associated awareness-raising campaign.
After hearing the minister speak, Cunningham said McCarthy-Fry had “made a number of concessions”, and he withdrew his bill.
Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said the charity was “delighted” the government had pledged to take action to ensure all children with health conditions receive “appropriate support” at school, and looked forward to hearing more detail about its plans.