Unite, children’s health organisations and charities call for government action on health visitor crisis

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Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA), has signed an open letter along with leading children’s health organisations and charities, including the NSPCC and the National Childbirth Trust, calling for the next government to take decisive action to remedy the fall in early years care and health visitor numbers.  

The letter states:

“We know the first 1,001 days of life are critical for a child’s development. Experiences during pregnancy and early years play a vital role in shaping a child’s brain and can impact their health, wellbeing, learning and behaviour.

“We also know that experiencing difficulties such as mental health problems during this time can make it hard for parents to form the close relationships with their children, that are so crucial for this positive development to happen.

“Whilst over the past week we have heard some encouraging noises from the major political parties on greater perinatal and early years support, it is vital that these commitments are translated into meaningful action by the next government.

“This will require a transformational, fully-costed, cross-government strategy that sets out how all families access the support they need to give their babies the best start in life.

“A core component of this will be a fully-funded workforce development plan that enables well trained and competent frontline staff to provide the gold-standard of support to all families, no matter what the level of need is or where they call home. 

“Collectively, we are deeply concerned by the 31 per cent decline in NHS health visiting staff since 2015. This, coupled with the increase in child caseloads for those still in the health visiting profession, means the nation’s universal support offer for families is under serious strain.

“We urge the next government to recognise and redress this through greater investment in the Healthy Child Programme. Government must also ensure that all parents who need additional help can access this through the expansion of specialist services, including community perinatal mental health services and specialised parent-infant relationship teams.

“On the 29 November, we ask that all party leaders dedicate this day to set out how they will meet the needs of all children, right from the start, while delivering benefits for society as a whole.”

UNITE/CPHVA – Obi Amadi, Lead Professional Officer for Health Visiting

NSPCC – Peter Wanless, CEO

Parent Infant Foundation – Beckie Lang, CEO

NCB – Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive

National Childbirth Trust – Nick Wilkie, Chief Executive Institute of Health Visiting – Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, CEO