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advice about my experience of peanut allergic ds going on school residential

(27 Posts)
shelsco Wed 05-Jun-13 20:48:30

Basically I want some advice about what I can do about the way I was treated with regard to Ds's residential by the owner of the business.

He's away this week (he's in Y6)and the owner had told me and the school that he catered for allergies and had had peanut allergic children to stay before. I said that was good because that meant everything would have already been checked for nut traces and he said no, that's just something companies put on to cover themselves. I explained about Ds being hospitalised after reacting severely to a nut trace but he just said to email him what he could have and he'd email the menu.

I emailed to explain that I would need details of brands and someone to check packaging for allergy info and would be happy to provide substitutes for anything not ok. I got no reply. The school had also emailed as their risk assessment depended on him checking packaging and having a copy of the menu. They got no response either.

After a fortnight I rang again and he was very rude, said he had no info for me, was now having to meet with food reps because of this and more or less hung up! After another 2 weeks of no contact the school managed to contact him and he gave us the menu. He wouldn't really give much info about brands and gave no allergy labelling info at all. The school asked him to check the labels and he then said no I would have to provide all the food. I asked if he could at least check the bread labelling so Ds could have the same toast as everyone else and he said no, we needed our own loaf.

As I had paid £280 for 5 days/4 nights with food, the school asked for some money back for food. He offered £10! As this was only a week before the trip and the last day before half term I had to accept as when I'd contacted the council they more or less said the school perhaps shouldn't take my DS.

So thoughts please! Am determined that this man should not be allowed to be so abusive. It's a concern that he is telling schools that he caters for allergies as, if they take him at his word and assume he understands cross contamination, which he obviously doesn't, it could result in a life threatening reaction for a child. it seems unlikely that other people wouldn't ask about nut traces but, as he has had peanut allergic people there before and he obviously doesn't know of there are nut traces in his food or not it is a bit of a worry!

What do you all think? I'm going to formally request that the school doesn't use him again. What else can I do??

dingit Wed 05-Jun-13 20:52:43

Is it part of a group, ie PGL? If so I would take it further. My Dd has nut allergy, and PGL were brilliant, she was fine and had a great time. It's a shame as he will be worried about going too. Hope you get it sorted.

freefrommum Wed 05-Jun-13 22:24:58

That's really appalling. My DD is coeliac and has been away twice with school, once in year 6 and again in year 7. Both times I spoke to the person in charge of catering at the venues to discuss menus and the issues around cross-contamination. DD is a super-sensitive coeliac so reacts to the tiniest crumb of gluten. I was reassured on both occasions as the staff really knew what they were talking about. I provided a few items such as gf pizza bases but everything else was provided by the venues. I do realise that it is not the same as having a life-threatening allergy (my DS is anaphylactic to milk, wheat, eggs & nuts) but I would be asking the same questions for either of my DC and would expect the same responses.

As for the council suggesting that the school shouldn't be taking your DS, that's discrimination under the Equality Act. The school has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure every child is included in school activities.

shelsco Wed 05-Jun-13 23:25:20

Well I thought that too but it seems that allergies aren't covered under the Equality act. Venues and even schools have a perfect right to say we can't provide a safe environment and therefore can't take your child. I was astounded. I was also informed by the council that there was nothing they could do to prevent anything happening or to enforce the risk assessment. they could only prosecute after the event which was obviously no comfort!
I want to write to councils and explain but feel there should be something else I can do. I sort of feel responsible now I know this man has no understanding of allergies. if I heard at a later date that something had happened that I could have prevented I would never forgive myself!

shelsco Wed 05-Jun-13 23:26:48

By the way, dingit it is an independent 'Christian' organisation that run it. If it were council run I could have more enforced I think as they are more heavily regulated.

Bessie123 Wed 05-Jun-13 23:29:47

Name and shame. Bastard.

ggirl Wed 05-Jun-13 23:35:34

I am shocked at how awful your ds has been treated.
My ds is going on yr 6 residential trip next yr ..bloody hope it's not the same provider as yours.
Have you informed the anaphylaxis campaign to tell them? I'm sure they would have something to day about the shoddy service you've had

dingit Thu 06-Jun-13 08:03:34

what a lovely 'christian' attitude.

shelsco Thu 06-Jun-13 12:49:40

Didn't think of the Anaphylaxis Campaign. I sort of figured that they couldn't do much about it. I rang them before he went for general advice and they talked about him having his own utensils and sleeping arrangements, snacks etc which was useful. didn't think they'd be able to much about the unhelpfulness. Think I might ring and see if they have any ideas though.
By the way, don't know where you live but this provider is based in Teesdale, Durham. He is definitely not the norm when it comes to school residentials. All the other places around here actually have nut free kitchens (no traces etc) as a matter of course and are very supportive of allergies. I n fact there is one near Whitby that even catered recently for someone with an outdoor phobia, quite something for an outdoor centre! Most places are very good which is why I'm so shocked and upset at our treatment.
Was thinking of naming and shaming Bessie in the local press for his area. Just want to be careful that I don't end up being done for defamation of character or anything! I wouldn't say anything that was untrue, however, but still if I'm a bit wary.

shelsco Thu 06-Jun-13 16:07:36

I know I must admit I though the 'Christian' was a bit of a joke!

Ilikethebreeze Thu 06-Jun-13 16:22:10

Can I ask whether the food he provides is all home cooked[not sure quite where I am going with the question yet?]

freefrommum Thu 06-Jun-13 19:51:45

Long term health conditions including allergies ARE covered by the Equality Act (I work in the disabilities field). I would definitely contact the Anaphylaxis Campaign as this is just the sort of thing they want to hear about.

shelsco Fri 07-Jun-13 07:52:32

He told me the food was home cooked by himself but then it turned out his home cooked spag bol was mince and dolmio so it wasnt exactly cooking from scratch but at least easy enough to check labelling if he had wanted to.
Freefrommum that's really interesting. I thought places had a right to exclude allergic children if they can't keep them safe. I'm really confused and upset and can't really think straight but am determined to try and take it further one way or another. Will ring AC today.

Ilikethebreeze Fri 07-Jun-13 08:28:38

He is just downright lying.
If he was saying it was homecooked and he was nut free, then no excuse. That is exactly what it should be, and he should be scrupulous.

But he is saying it is homecooked, when really it is not.

As regards labelling. One of my kids is severe nut allergic. But he is ok if a product says nut traces, because as the man says, companies put that on to cover themselves, and often if not all of the time, the product has been nowhere near nuts.
So the man has been trying to hide behind that.
But he cant in this case because of the reasons above.

And he shouldnt anyway if he is advertising the place as nut free.
I should imagine there are people who react to a "traces of nut" on a product.

Ilikethebreeze Fri 07-Jun-13 08:30:37

I wonder whether trading standards would be interested?
He is actually running a potentially deadly establishment.

shelsco Fri 07-Jun-13 13:52:28

My son did react to a trace of a peanut in a product and ended up in hospital after going into anaphylactic shock. that was his first ever anaphylactic reaction. I though it couldn't possibly be to the peanuts but when we had him tested we found it was1 I told the man this but he didn't seem to believe me! Just treated as a neurotic mother!
I spoke to the council and apparently trading standards can't enforce anything with regard to allergy until the law changes in December 2014. they weren't that interested though so I'm thinking of double checking on that!

Ilikethebreeze Fri 07-Jun-13 14:08:46

It is probably rare even for someone allergic to nuts to react to nut traces in products.
And the man is probably trying to hide behind that, but for what he is doing, he in now way can do that.

good luck with sorting this out. I heop you can. Personally I am out of ideas.
Shame trading standards cant do anything yet.
Sounds like the man wont be able to get away with it after Dec next year.

I imagine the county you are in will no longer use him/ Could check on that.

And ring the head office of the "Christian" organisation.

Ringing the local paper of the man might be a very good idea. See if they will take the story.

I feel quite strongly about all of this too.

shelsco Fri 07-Jun-13 17:26:33

Thanks for that. smile
Well my son is back and had a good time, although I'm annoyed by the fact that the man ended the stay by addressing all the children, saying it was nice to have met them and at least he hadn't killed my son, (pause for hilarious laughter). It's great that Ds's life threatening condition is such as cause for hilarity. Another of the blokes kept threatening to throw a peanut at my son (pause for more hilarious laughter). Ds did laugh and took it as a joke, suppose he didn't have much choice. I'm not laughing though, given that one of the latest forms of bullying in secondary schools is to hide peanuts in the jackets of peanut allergic people or to throw peanuts at them.
Ilikethebreeze from what I've gathered it isn't that uncommon for peanut allergic people to react to traces. Being a teacher myself, we've had a few children who do in my school. I did think of ringing the paper like you said especially now, just want to do something more official too. Rang Anaphylactic Campaign today but they were all at the allergy show today so they're ringing me back next week.

Its the complete lack of understanding of what its like to live with a life threatening condition which makes this so upsetting. They took all the kids to the fish and chip shop (after providing a menu, they then completely disregarded it and fed the kids different things so all my efforts to include the same food for DS was in vain!) The ironic thing is DS can usually havew fish and chips, they would only have had asked me in advance or checked with the shop and he could probably have joine din with everyone else. Instead they cooked his chicken nuggets and chips, took it along and got it kept warm whilst all the other children chose off the menu. Very inclusive. Am wondering if I can do anything under discrimination laws. Still fuming (in case you hadn't gathered!)

greenbananas Fri 07-Jun-13 21:09:01

Such a shame that this was a `Christian` organisation sad My experience of local church toddler groups is that they have bent over backwards to include DS in every way possible, and seem to have done this out of a heartfelt desire to make him welcome rather than the "we have an inclusion policy" attitude I have found in some state-run children's centres.

I'm not surprised you are fuming. The whole thing sounds terrible, and very unpleasant for your son. Very unprofessional and badly run, and also lacking in the empathy and good support that I would expect of a faith-based organisation.

Ilikethebreeze Fri 07-Jun-13 21:42:44

Yikes did read the op well enough as didnt realise he was there this week. I thought he was safely back.
Glad he is ok though.

The jokes, esp by the man who joked about throwing a nut at him was well out of line.

I would so do something about that place.
And I am a Christian!

ggirl Fri 07-Jun-13 21:51:16

I'm appalled at the attitude and not surprised you are fuming , I am as well
What did your ds' teachers think of the jokes at the end?

shelsco Fri 07-Jun-13 22:27:40

Well I haven't spoken to the teachers yet as I didn't find all this out until after school closed but I've spent the last hour writing a letter to the chair of governors formally requesting that they never use this centre again. I told them about the 'jokes' in it. The school is a Christian school and I must say has been very supportive, even threatening to cancel the trip if this man didn't provide the necessary info. They never once suggested that my son didn't go (which the council did!) so at least they have been inclusive!
Loads of people have suggested that I contact the local paper but I don't know why I just feel nervous about doing that!

greenbananas Fri 07-Jun-13 22:49:32

It's tempting to contact the local paper, but I think your instincts are right about that. Might be satisfying to name and shame the culprits, but the paper would probably want a picture of your son looking sad and hard-done-by, and that might not be a good thing for him overall.

Your son's needs are more important than anything else. Glad he had a good time on the trip, and hope is feeling generally okay after this quite horrible handling of his alleriges.

ggirl Fri 07-Jun-13 22:49:43

I am so furious for you and your ds, the jokes have upset me the most I think!
I think the school should at the very least boycott this business and encourage the council to boycott as well. I hope the AC can help with this.

Hope your ds is ok..and you

shelsco Fri 07-Jun-13 22:54:54

Well the Ac are ringing me next week but I think I will email them beforehand so they are familiar with the situation and maybe have some time to think about it if they need to. I did ring today but they were all at the allergy show.
I have now completed a letter to the chair of governors requesting a formal boycott of this centre and tomorrow's job is to write to the surrounding LEAs requesting the same action from them.
greenbananas I think that's what I was uncomfortable with. I didn't want Ds to be named and made public. He's been singled out enough without becoming 'famous' for his allergy. Even though its not our area, I'd hate someone to google him at some point and come across something that would make him feel embarrassed.

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