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Scunthorpe Mum Leads Way To Parliament To Raise Awareness For

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

ANGELA Dawson, mum to five year old diabetic Henry Dawson, joined over 200 parents and their children from across the UK as she called on MPs to improve the support for pupils with diabetes in schools in England.

On Tuesday 18 November Diabetes UK  launched 'Make Diabetes A Priority', a list of ten concerns that policy-makers should address including identifying diabetes early, ensuring children with diabetes have a future, preventing life threatening complications, supporting self-management, improving flexible working conditions for parents of diabetes and improving emergency and inpatient care.

Angela, an optician at Scunthorpe Specsavers says: "We had an amazing day spending more than three hours with Scunthorpe MP Elliot Morley. He spoke in length with Henry and me about his condition,  taking a keen interest in our cause so fingers crossed some good will come out of our day and we'll have made a significant impact towards the 'Make Diabetes a Priority' campaign. We're really grateful for his time and Henry especially enjoyed our guided tour of Parliament including a sneaky peak of the MPs lounge!"

The leading health charity invited MPs from the region to attend the lobby and hear about inequalities in support for children with diabetes during school hours. Henry and his family have been one of the lucky ones and had some very positive experiences at school, including blood glucose monitoring, a member of staff to inject insulin and being able to snack in class as needed, this support being extended not only to Henry but also his friend Archie Oldridge who is also diabetic and unusually in the same class.

Angela continues: 'No two days are the same when you have a child with Diabetes. We have good and bad days because his sugar levels can dangerously vary very quickly.

'We're lucky that Henry's school, Holme Valley Primary School, is so supportive and his teaching assistant Mrs Ogden has been extensively trained in the condition and with the support of other members of staff does a fantastic job. I'm reassured that he's in safe hands at school which allows him as normal a school experience as possible, he is flourishing academically and socially because of this support. There are days when I need to dash off to care for him and I'm very grateful that Specsavers offers me the flexibility that I need to look after Henry. They are very understanding, it's a great partnership and without it there is no way I'd be able to work and provide him with the level of care he needs.

'I know I'm in a fortunate position and Tuesday was all about meeting Scunthorpe MP Elliot Morley to ask him to support us and raise awareness at MP level about the dangers of diabetes and the support families and working parents need."

Linda Wood, Regional Manager for Diabetes UK Yorkshire says: "For every child with Diabetes who doesn't receive appropriate support at school, a whole family suffers. We already know that the health and well-being of 83 per cent of children with diabetes is in jeopardy because they are not achieving the recommended blood glucose levels and we must do everything we can to help them. Schools have a vital role to play in changing this frightening statistic - and with an estimated 2,000 children being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes every year in the UK, action must be taken now."

Henry's condition was spotted nearly three years ago after his worried family noticed he was increasingly lethargic and constantly wanted a drink. Angela adds: 'Henry was always a very active little boy and it became very noticeable that he was sitting and watching other children play and not joining in himself. This combined with his never ending thirst led me to believe something wasn't quite right.

'Being an optician' adds Angela, 'I have had extensive training to enable me to spot the early signs of many diseases and diabetes is one of them.  At first I thought I was being an overly worried parent but his condition wasn't improving. I took Henry to our local GP - who was very sceptical because it's so rare in young children - to be screened and the tests were conclusive.'

Henry is monitored closely to ensure his insulin levels remain constant to prevent him from falling into a diabetic coma. Angela with the help of his school achieves this by testing his blood up to eight times a day and injecting Henry with insulin four times daily.

Donna Castle, campaigns manager at Diabetes UK, adds: 'We are calling on politicians and public representatives, from the Prime Minister to local councillors, to work with Diabetes UK to make diabetes a national priority.

'While some of Diabetes UK's key demands relate to areas devolved to local health organisations, we believe the government and politicians have a critical role in determining what is a priority within the NHS and in framing the terms of legislation and the NHS constitution.

'An already over-burdened NHS spends £1 million an hour on diabetes. Diabetes UK is eager to work with policy-makers on fundamental objectives such as preventing diabetes-related complications and supporting self-management to ensure that every person with diabetes has the high quality care they deserve and the same life expectancy as someone without diabetes.'

Angela concludes: 'Some days it's really hard and it seems so unfair. We have to have such total control over what Henry eats and drinks, making sure his blood and insulin levels are correct, but we're really no different to any other family with a diabetic.' 

To re-enforce Scunthorpe Specsavers' level of support to Angela and her family, store director Andrew Mortimer generously agreed to not only let Angela take a day off on full pay to visit Downing Street but he also paid for Henry and his mums travel rather than allow Diabetes UK to foot the bill as he knows first hand how every penny is needed by Diabetes UK.


- Ends -

  • Specsavers was founded by Doug and Dame Mary Perkins in 1984 and is now the largest privately owned opticians in the world
  • The couple still run the company, along with their three children. Their eldest son John is joint managing director
  • Specsavers has more than 1060 stores throughout the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Spain and Australia
  • Annual turnover for the Specsavers Group is forecast to reach a record £1.05 billion for the financial year 2008/9
  • The group plans to continue its successful international expansion by opening stores in New Zealand
  • Specsavers optical stores and hearing centres are owned and run by joint venture or franchise partners.
  • Specsavers employs more than 17,000 staff
  • Specsavers was voted Britain's most trusted brand of opticians for the seventh year running by Reader's Digest in 2008
  • One in three people who wear glasses in the UK buy them from Specsavers Opticians - eight and a half million glasses were sold during 2007
  • Specsavers is the largest retail provider of home delivery contact lenses in Europe and one of the top two retail suppliers of continuous wear lenses in the world
  • Specsavers is now the largest retail dispenser of digital hearing aids in the UK and will offer a hearing service from more than 400 locations by the end of 2008
  • Specsavers supports numerous optical and hearing charities, including Diabetes UK, for whom they have raised more than £250,000 to fund research into diabetic retinopathy
  • Since 2003 a quarter of a million glasses have been collected and recycled by Specsavers stores for Vision Aid Overseas for use in developing countries


*GfK Home Audit (Dec 2007)     


*Diabetes UK: Registered charity 25199

Diabetes UK is the largest organisation in the UK working for people with diabetes, their carers, family and friends.  The charity has more than 170,000 members and campaigns to fund research and help people who live with the condition.


Our mission is to improve the lives of people with diabetes and to work towards a future without diabetes.