National children’s charity ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence) has launched a new education campaign called The Right to Go.
The campaign aims to improve support for children with bladder and bowel conditions in schools, ensure all children have access to safe, hygienic toilet facilities and promote good bladder and bowel health. The campaign launch coincides with ERIC’s 25th anniversary year.
In the UK, one in 12 children and young people suffers with an ongoing bladder or bowel problem, such as an overactive bladder, recurrent Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), Nocturnal Enuresis (bedwetting) or constipation; yet support for children with these issues is often poor across education and health settings.
These issues place a significant burden on the lives of children and families. ERIC hears of many incidents where children are knowingly left to sit in class with wet or soiled pants, are not allowed to use toilet facilities when they need to, are faced with using unhygienic and poorly maintained toilets, and are not supported to drink regularly during the day – which plays a vital role in the management of a bladder or bowel condition. There are 15,000 hospital admissions every year in England alone for constipation and UTI’s in children – 80% of which could be avoided through improved care in primary and community settings.
The charity is urging schools and early years settings, local authorities, health professionals, UK governments and other partners to work together to improve care for children with continence problems in education settings. This includes putting in place effective policies and procedures, improving school toilet facilities and respecting children’s rights and opinions in relation to their health needs. ERIC has produced a detailed resource that schools, parents and other partners can use to implement best practice in this area.
Jenny Perez, ERIC’s chief executive, said: “ERIC has worked for 25 years to provide lifeline support to children and young people with bladder and bowel conditions, and their families. Yet these children continue to be let down by education and health services and a society that reinforces the message that wee and poo problems are shameful. It’s time for bladder and bowel problems to come out of the closet, so children get the right support to manage these issues and are encouraged to love rather than despise their bodies.”
A 15-year-old girl with a bladder condition recently told ERIC: “My problem pretty much ruins my life. I have depression because of it. Not until recently did I even know what the cause was. I don’t want to tell anyone. I’m 15 and I’ve had this problem since I was 12. I feel like I can never be normal. For a long time I wouldn’t even hang out with people because I feared I would wet myself and they would find out. I hate it so much I just need it to stop.”
And a mother recently told ERIC: “I have found my daughter’s school to be ineffective in supporting her continence problems. I don’t feel water drinking is encouraged in class and leaving the classroom to go to the toilet can also be problematic. Even during break times toilet visits are restricted. I think this has contributed majorly to my child’s problem. If schools were more child-centred, the toilets were better, and children were more physically active, I believe my daughter’s difficulties would not be such an issue. A special note about her condition is supposed to be recorded on the class register but I recently found out this hasn’t occurred.”
During ERIC’s 25th anniversary year, the charity will also campaign for more Paediatric Continence Specialist Nurses across the UK and improved commissioning of health services for children affected.
In addition, the charity aims to help 250,000 children and young people with bladder and bowel problems during the year through its services, information resources and campaigns.
Many young people suffer in silence with bladder and bowel conditions, ashamed to tell those close to them, let down by health and education services and crippled by self-esteem issues. Problems that are not diagnosed early enough can lead to long-term physical, emotional and psychological difficulties that persist into adulthood.