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Allergies in schools debate to take place in Westminster Hall

30th Nov 2023 - 07:00
Allergies in schools debate to take place in Westminster Hall
On the eve of the second anniversary of her five year-old son’s death, Helen Blythe from Stamford is attending a debate in Parliament as part of her campaign to change to the law, to keep pupils with allergies safer.

The debate will take place on today (Thursday 30th November2023) at 3pm in Westminster Hall and is the latest in a series of allergy-focussed debates. According to research, food allergies affects around 7-8% of children worldwide, or about two children in an average-sized classroom of 25 children.

On 1st December 2021 Benedict Blythe had an allergic reaction and collapsed. Despite attempts to save him, Benedict died later that day.

The family are still waiting for an inquest to shed light on how and why their son died, but their experience showed them the ‘horrifying speed’ with which a child can become seriously ill – and the need for schools to be prepared.

Helen commented: “Following our devastating experience, and the loss of our beloved son, my husband and I received messages from families and teachers, telling their stories of allergies at school. Some were full of joy, and others full of pain and fear. It cannot be left to chance whether children with allergies get to attend a safe, inclusive school, which is why we founded Benedict Blythe Foundation and started the campaign.”

In 2017 alone, three children died following allergic reactions at school: 13-year-old Karanbir Cheema died after a pupil flicked cheese at him knowing he had a dairy allergy, 14-year-old Nasar Ahmed died after an allergic reaction to milk in his tandoori chicken lunch and 9-year-old Mohammed Ismaell Ashraf died following an anaphylactic reaction to an unknown allergen. In all three of these cases the coroner pointed out that there were failings in how the school responded.

A petition set up by the Foundation gained over 10,000 signatures in two weeks. Ultimately, 13,000 people supported the campaign asking for:

  • An allergy policy in every school
  • Individual healthcare plans for all pupils with allergies co-created with parents & children
  • Spare autoinjector pens in every school
  • Training on allergy awareness and emergency response for all staff

The petition prompted MP Jim Shannon to request the debate. He received cross-party support from 15 Labour, Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Green Party, SNP, Reclaim and DUP MPs.

Written by
Edward Waddell