21 May 2024
Vara backs calls for mandatory allergy guidance for schools

Shailesh Vara calls for mandatory guidance on allergies for schools and funding being made available so that all schools have adrenaline pens and staff trained to use them.

Shailesh Vara (North West Cambridgeshire) (Con)

I congratulate my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour on securing this important debate, and on the fact that although Adjournment debates are normally lonely affairs, others are present for this one. Does she agree that the cost the Government would incur in helping schools to provide, for example, adrenaline pens is, in the overall scheme of things, very small indeed, and should not be a barrier to supplying schools with a little bit of extra cash to procure a few adrenaline pens which may save lives?

Alicia Kearns (Rutland and Melton) (Con)

My right hon. Friend is right, and I pay tribute to him for raising this issue during Prime Minister's questions only last week on behalf of Benedict and his family. Other countries have taken action, and we have the opportunity to do the same.

The Benedict Blythe Foundation has worked tirelessly under Helen’s leadership to investigate the issues facing pupils with allergies, and—most importantly—to make policy recommendations to solve them. 


Shailesh Vara 

I know the Minister is diligent, conscientious and caring in all that he does, and the tone he is adopting clearly shows that. While he is absolutely right that there is legislation and guidance for schools as to how to deal with this issue, I and others would say that it is too general in nature, and it leaves much discretion with the schools as to what precisely they do in the event of a child having an allergic reaction. I urge him to reflect and to consider tightening the laws, so that they become mandatory. That should be in a limited way, but nevertheless we need some mandatory rules for schools, rather than them being left as general and vague as they are at present.

The Minister for Schools (Damian Hinds)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, and I acknowledge the gravity of what he says. Of course, we are talking about conditions that can be very varied, and the responses that are called for can be quite different. Schools know their pupils almost best; they, working with parents, who absolutely know their children best, are in the best place to enact that. I want to be clear that the guidance that accompanies what I have just been outlining is statutory guidance supporting pupils with medical conditions. It is not voluntary, and governing bodies must have regard to it when carrying out their duties.