NHS pledges more support for victims and survivors of sexual assault and abuse alongside powerful awareness campaign

Victims and survivors of sexual and domestic abuse are being encouraged to come forward for NHS help and care, as part of a major campaign backed by a £20 million boost to specialist services.

The new campaign comes as a survey of more than 4000 people across the country, conducted by Censuswide, found that two in five people aren’t sure, or do not know where to get help after being sexually assaulted, with 72% unaware there are NHS specialist sexual assault services who can offer confidential support.

The campaign, which is championed by former Prime Minister Theresa May and the Duchess of Cornwall will raise awareness of the specialist support offered at dozens of sexual assault referral centres (SARCs). They offer 24/7 confidential specialist, practical, medical, and emotional support to anyone who has been raped, sexually assaulted, or abused – regardless of when the incident happened.

The SARCs campaign is backed by Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England and is being promoted by NHS Safeguarding via the national safeguarding networks. A campaign film has been produced alongside a powerful animation which addresses the common questions and concerns many people face after experiencing sexual assault, abuse, or rape, including not knowing who or where to turn.

Georgina Mayes, Policy and Quality Lead at iHV, commented:

“Health visitors, through their universal reach into all families, are well placed to identify and support people who have been sexually assaulted or abused. The iHV urges all health visitors to familiarise themselves with the SARC resources and would value their support with raising awareness of this campaign.”

Further resources:

  • More information on what help is available after rape, sexual assault or abuse can be found at nhs.uk/SARCs.
  • Health visitors can find their nearest SARC via the directory.
  • More information on how to recognise the signs of domestic violence and abuse, and where to get help, can be found on the UK website.
  • Further information about the Censuswide survey can be found here.
  • The NHS Pledge and further campaign information can be found here.
  • Campaign resources can be found here.

Yesterday’s Budget and Spending Review was launched with the title ‘A stronger economy for the British people  – it sets out the Government’s priorities and vision of a Global Britain.

Why is prioritising the ‘best start in life’ important for a ‘Global Britain’?

The evidence is clear that, if we want a ‘Global Britain’, we need to invest in our human future and build an infrastructure of support for babies, children and families to improve outcomes, reduce inequalities, and build happy, healthy and prosperous adults.

However, we currently have some of the worst child health outcomes in Western Europe, with widening inequalities and spiralling costs of child protection and late intervention. Put bluntly, as a country we are spending more than £16 billion pounds on costly late interventions, or ‘getting it wrong’, every year (and this is estimated to be only a fraction of the true costs). We need to do better.

In the run up to the Spending Review, more than 700 leading children’s organisations came together with ‘one voice’ and called on the Government to do things differently with investment in a public health approach. A national campaign to ‘turn off the taps, rather than mop the floor’ highlighted the importance of tackling the root causes of poor child health outcomes with prevention and early intervention which have been shown to make the biggest difference and make sound economic sense. This included a united call for 3,000 additional health visitors in the next three years.

Yesterday’s budget contained some ‘good news’ for babies:

The Treasury has listened, and we thank them for this. The funding announced yesterday is a welcome step in the right direction and will undoubtedly make a difference to many families. This autumn budget represents a significant turning point with a statement from the Chancellor that he had acknowledged the important work led by Dame Andrea Leadsom MP in her ‘Early Years Healthy Development Review’,

For too long, far too long, the location of your birth has determined too much of your future… the awesome power of opportunity shouldn’t be available only to a wealthy few… but be the birth right of every child in an independent and prosperous United Kingdom. The evidence is compelling that the first 1,001 days of a child’s life are the most important”.

We would like to personally thank Dame Andrea Leadsom MP for her tireless work, over many years, making the case for babies and their families in the House.

Yesterday’s budget included a £500 million investment package over the next three years to support families and transform ‘Start for Life’ and family help services in half of the council areas across England. This will fund a network of Family Hubs, Start for Life services, perinatal mental health support, breastfeeding services and parenting programmes. It will also expand the Supporting Families programme, providing up to 300,000 families with high quality, multidisciplinary support.

The iHV welcomes all of these initiatives – in particular, we have worked with Leadsom in her campaign for well-resourced Family Hubs and additional funding to improve perinatal mental health support – these all represent an important step in the right direction.

What about health visiting? Did the Government deliver their pledge to rebuild health visiting and the Healthy Child Programme’?

It’s difficult to see from yesterday’s Spending Review how the Government will deliver on their pledge to ‘rebuild health visiting’ or how Family Hubs can be successful without a highly skilled workforce. We need a skilled workforce to welcome and work with families who attend the Hubs, but most importantly, if we are really serious about reducing inequalities, to reach out to the multitude of families who will not attend. The evidence is clear that the families who need the most support are the least likely to easily engage with services – they need a skilled health visiting workforce to ‘reach out’ to them.

Yesterday was not ‘our day’ – there was no workforce plan to deliver the additional 3,000 health visitors needed over the next three years to address the national shortfall of 5,000 health visitors, or ensure that the health visiting workforce is strengthened to address current and future ‘health’ priorities. The Healthy Child Programme is a ‘health’ policy and much of the work requires a highly skilled ‘health’ workforce – it is therefore essential that we have a workforce plan which delivers a ‘health’ workforce – it is ‘safety critical’, not just a ‘nice to have’.

The only mention of health visiting was a pledge that, “Trials of innovative workforce models for health visitors will also be funded in a smaller number of council areas to test approaches to improve the support available to new parents” – the pre-budget announcement indicated that this would be £10 million.

Whether this is good news or not, will really depend on the detail of this proposal. As part of our Spending Review submission, we proposed the establishment of ‘ICS academies for child and family health’ within selected early adopter sites, to bring partners together to collectively plan, test and refine health and care services to meet the needs of babies, children, families and communities. Working in more integrated ways represents a significant shift in health policy, it will therefore be important to have systems in place to support and evaluate the implementation of ICSs and inform wider system learning. It is unclear whether this is what is being proposed.

Given that the Best Start in Life budget delivery metrics all relate to ‘education’, our longstanding concerns are that ‘health’ is not a priority in the Early Start vision and, as such, the important ‘health’ function of health visitors will continue to be overlooked. Others have expressed concerns that the “innovative workforce models” described are actually a dilution of the health visiting workforce to increase the proportion of lower-skilled staff.

Are we being ungrateful, £500 million is a lot of money? It’s all a matter of priorities:

We recognise that the Government faces a tight fiscal settlement, having already invested significant sums of money into almost every part of society. In terms of Government priorities:

  • £100 billion was committed in March 2021 as part of the ‘Build back better’ plan for infrastructure projects (including buildings, roads and bridges).
  • Yesterday’s budget set out that total departmental spending is set to grow in real terms at 3.8% a year on average over this Parliament – a cash increase of £150 billion a year by 2024-25.
  • The total investment to specifically support education recovery is £4.9 billion (from academic year 2020-21).
  • Pubs have been prioritised – the duty rate cuts announced yesterday amount to £3 billion over the next five years.
  • We are facing spiralling costs of not intervening early – the recent Royal Foundation report calculated that we spend more than £16 billion pounds on costly late interventions, or ‘getting it wrong’ every year.

You decide – have we got our priorities right with only £500 million for babies and young children, who represent our ‘human potential’?  Against a backdrop of piecemeal child health policies and years of disinvestment, with £1 billion stripped from the public health grant, the sector is united that this does not go far enough.

But for now, there are still opportunities for health visitors to maximise – keep close to the iHV as there is work to be done and plans are already emerging for next steps.

We look to the future when one day we can shift from a budget titled A stronger economy for the British people’ to one which prioritises people through ‘Stronger people for the British economy’.

Calling all health visitors and health visiting teams! We really need your help to increase our response rate to our annual state of health visiting survey.

The great news is we have had 884 responses to our survey so far (and a huge thanks to everyone who has already completed it!). The bad news is that, at the moment, thousands of health visitors will not get their views heard!

Our target is to reach 1000 responses as minimum!

I cannot stress how important our annual survey is. We will use the evidence to create a powerful picture of the current state of health visiting which we will use to influence national decisions.

Big decisions are being made right now about the funding for health visiting and the ways that the service is delivered In England – there is also a lot of variation across the UK which we need to demonstrate. Help us tell your story. What do you think? Is it working? What needs to change? Have your say to benefit the health of all families and your staff.

If we don’t speak out as health visitors, policymakers will presume that everything is working well. We know that you may be feeling tired and exhausted – or feel that your views won’t make any difference. Thank you for all that you’re doing supporting babies, children and their families, it really does make a difference and your views really do count.

A big response rate will provide evidence that will be difficult to ignore. Only last week we saw how the views of 3,000 organisations and individuals, who came together with ‘one voice’, stopped Hampshire’s decision to cut their health visiting service.

This is where I need your help – don’t presume that others will do this for you – please take 20 minutes out of your very busy day and complete the survey yourself, and encourage your colleagues to do the same. This will possibly be the best use of 20 minutes that you will have as health visitors today to change the future of our profession. Make a plan – do it now, or find some time in the next week to have your say.

The survey contains a variety of questions to capture the state of health visiting, including:

  • The ratio of children under 5 years per health visitor (if you get stuck on this question, please ask your manager to help you – the data is anonymised, so you can ‘tell it as it is’. The survey contains details on how to calculate this).
  • Workforce forecasting – numbers of health visitors planning to retire or leave health visiting in the next 5 years.
  • Changes in children and families’ vulnerability.
  • Staff wellbeing.
  • Staff CPD needs.

I hope that you will join with me and the hundreds of health visitors who have completed the survey so far – be part of the 1,000!!

Thanks so much for your support

Alison Morton, Executive Director, iHV

How to take part in the annual State of Health Visiting Survey

For those people on our mailing lists (including members and expired members), you will have received an email from us with the survey link. So please do check your emails.

For those health visitors or members of health visiting teams who are not on our mailing lists, or can’t find your email, and would like to complete this vital survey, please contact [email protected] to request the survey link.

Thank you so much for helping us to help you. Together we are stronger.

#BuildBackChildhood #ChildrenAtTheHeart

As part of the Health Policy Influencing Group, the iHV is delighted to support the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) with the vision to #BuildBackChildhood which harnesses the support of over 700 organisations demanding that the Chancellor makes a strategic investment in babies, children, young people and families at the autumn Spending Review.  It is the latest action in the high-profile Children at the Heart movement, coordinated by the National Children’s Bureau, calling for children to be remembered in spending plans.

Babies and children’s health, wellbeing and life chances are strongly shaped by the circumstances of their birth and the environments in which they live. The pandemic has exposed widening health inequalities, with disadvantaged children falling even further behind and vulnerable children bearing the impact of disruption to education and other vital services.

“As we recover, we face a choice: do we create a more level playing field in our society? Or do we simply return to what was there before? It’s this government’s mission to unite and level up across the whole of the UK, to build back better and to build back fairer.” – Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health

The NCB highlights how the Spending Review is a turning point:

“Instead of going back to how things were, this is our chance to look to the future – a future where every child feels safe, secure and supported. This is our chance to Build Back Childhood to ensure that babies, children and young people are not forgotten.

Public services are caught in a cycle of increasing demand and late intervention. We risk every penny of the new NHS and social care levy being swallowed up by increased demand unless this is resolved. The Government must explicitly re-balance spending towards prevention and early intervention in childhood in order to reduce costs and burden on the NHS.

The #BuildBackChildhood campaign includes the following policy recommendations:

  • £500 million ringfenced uplifts in the Public Health Grant over the next three years to train and recruit 3000 new health visitors. This will enable local authorities to create strong and innovative health visiting services.
  • Reverse the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit and increase legacy benefits by £20 a week – reducing child poverty by 350,000.
  • Scrap the benefit cap and two-child limit – this would only cost £1.9 billion and would pull nearly 300,000 children out of poverty.
  • £103 million per year to support 500,000 young people through community mental health hubs.
  • An expansion of the Family Hubs network to provide an access point in local communities to provide help for families who need it.
  • Doubling the Supporting Families Programme to £330 million to provide early help to families facing multiple disadvantages.
  • The rapid expansion of Mental Health Support Teams so that all pupils are schools are covered by 2023.
  • Local areas to tackle the backlog of assessments and address the impact of missed therapies.
  • The launch of an independent review into childcare and early education funding and affordability, including whether current spending is sufficient to deliver the free entitlements.

“We are delighted to support this growing groundswell of organisations coming together with a united voice calling on the Government to #BuildBackChildhood . The evidence is clear, if we are serious about wanting to ‘level-up’ society and support public services which are flooded with increasing need, it is essential that we start in the earliest years of life and invest in our children, who are our future – there is no smarter investment” – Alison Morton, Executive Director iHV

NCB #BuildBackChildhood campaign supporters

Investing in giving children the best start for life not only improves their life chances, but also reduces the demands on public services. As highlighted by the #TurnOffTheTaps Campaign launched last week, it’s time for a different approach. The UK is investing billions in overstretched health and social care services, which are flooded with growing needs.  It’s time to turn off the taps. It’s time to invest in health promotion and prevention in the earliest years of life.

Vicky Gilroy, iHV Head of Projects and Evaluation, said:

“The iHV is delighted that the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA), in their newly launched “Turning the Tide: A 10-year Healthy Weight Strategy”, has recognised and promoted the important role that health visitors play, providing individualised family-centred support to all families to reduce the impact of obesity.”

The Turning the Tide: A 10-year Healthy Weight Strategy, launched on 28 September 2021, makes 30 recommendations covering food and drink marketing in the early years, along with treatment, support and the need to address stigma, as well as the infrastructure needed to ensure that policies are robustly implemented and evaluated. The Strategy has been developed with an expert working group of academics, clinicians and policy experts, along with other expert advisors and OHA members. It brings together a wide range of public health stakeholders calling for evidence-informed approaches to improving healthy weight.

Key headlines from the Early Years Chapter of the Strategy include:

  1. An increase in health visitor universal ‘contacts’ (home visits or clinic appointments) to a minimum of eight
    • – Providing greater opportunities for the provision of advice and support on infant feeding and the promotion of healthy eating, physical activity and healthy weight.
    • – Enabling the early identification of children at risk of unhealthy growth with enhanced, tailored follow-up where needed to improve outcomes.
  2. Practical face-to-face breastfeeding support should be available to all women, delivered by appropriately qualified midwives, midwife support workers, health visitors or breastfeeding specialists, and assisted by trained peer supporters.
  3. Comprehensive training should enable and equip professionals working with expectant parents and families to discuss healthy weight and healthy eating in an empathetic manner, ensuring that the advice they receive is based on the best current independent evidence.

It’s time to turn the tide and halt the rise in obesity with a long-term approach to healthy weight. We support the OHA’s new healthy weight strategy with 30 evidence-informed actions. #TurnTheTide 

Public services are flooded with increasing needs. It’s time to invest in health visiting to #TurnOffTheTaps. 

The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), working together with the Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF), The Sleep Charity and parents/carers, is delighted to share an animation for health, education and social care professionals to raise awareness and understanding of behaviour in the early years, what restrictive practice looks like in the under 5s, and the importance of respectful, behavioural support strategies that safeguard the rights of young children with disabilities.

This co-produced animation shares the voices of parents/ carers through one family’s journey. This new animation aims to help inform the practice of all professionals when supporting families to aid understanding of behaviour. The animation is supported by a range of new resources specifically for health visitors that collate information about understanding behaviour and using appropriate interventions, and to offer alternatives to restrictive practices. To find out more about these resources and accompanying training to support practice please contact [email protected] .

Vicky Gilroy, Head of Projects at iHV, said:

“Health visitors are often the first person that families turn to when they are struggling with their child’s behaviour. However, identifying, understanding and supporting non-restrictive practice is not part of a health visitor’s general training and there are few resources available for health visitors to help them in this specific aspect of their role. Developing evidence-based resources for health visitors will support health visitors and their teams to improve their knowledge, skills and confidence in identifying and supporting children and their parents in this area of practice.”

Gemma Grant, Children & Young People Policy Lead at the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said:

“Children who have a developmental delay are more likely to display behaviours that challenge. Health visitors have a key role in supporting families in the early years and offer trusted advice on how best to respond to the challenges parents face. We are delighted to support the launch of this animation which will equip health visitors with the knowledge to support families to understand behaviour, reduce the use of restrictive practices and ensure children with developmental disabilities get the best start in life.”

This project, supported by a grant from The Burdett Trust for Nursing, aimed to raise health visitors’ awareness of the practical and ethical issues of restrictive and restraining practices in the early years and to promote the importance of respectful, behavioural support strategies that safeguard the rights of young children with disabilities. Improving health visitors’ awareness and confidence in this area of their work will enable them to support and encourage parents to implement behavioural strategies with their children from an early age and avoid restrictive practices which can become difficult to change once embedded.


The iHV has provided the Treasury with the latest evidence and cost benefits for new investment into health visiting as part of its multi-year Spending Review. The Spending Review representation makes the case for improving outcomes for babies, children and families through a strengthened health visiting service.

In this submission, we have offered solutions to the challenges that this country faces with a growing NHS backlog and billions spent annually on costly late intervention. We are calling for investment to deliver the Government’s Start for Life Vision. This includes:

  • A £500 million ringfenced uplift in the Public Health Grant over the next three years.
  • Investing enough to reach a total of 5,000 additional health visitors over the next 5 years, with 3,000 in this spending review.
  • Strengthening the leadership capability in health visiting services.
  • ‘ICS academies for child and family health’ within selected early adopter sites. Improving integration represents a fundamental shift in health and care delivery and it will be important to have systems in place to support and evaluate the implementation of ICSs and inform wider system learning.

We are delighted to have such a groundswell of support for this call for investment in health visiting from leading professional bodies, organisations and experts working to improve outcomes for children and reduce inequalities. They represent a united and powerful voice for change.

We have more evidence than any other generation that investment in the earliest years of life represents the smartest of all investments. We also have some of the worst child health outcomes amongst comparable nations, with widening inequalities.

Collectively, we have come together to present a clear blueprint for the future that should not be ignored.

The Chancellor has said that the Spending Review will make people’s lives better by levelling up across the UK, building infrastructures for growth with strong and innovative public services. The evidence is clear that investing in an infrastructure for the earliest years of life represents the smartest of all investments, building the human potential to advance ‘Global Britain’ and reducing inequalities, yet this currently receives insufficient attention.

It is time to for the Government to deliver on its pledge to ‘rebuild health visiting and the Healthy Child Programme’. This cannot be left for another 3 years.

We thank our partners for their support:

  • The ‘One Voice Partnership’ (which includes the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG); Sands and the National Childbirth Trust (NCT)
  • The First 1001 Days Movement
  • The National Network of Designated Healthcare Professionals for Children UK
  • Health Policy Influencing Group
  • Maternal Mental Health Alliance
  • Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

We want everyone to know what health visitors do and why their role is so important. How can we expect the Government to invest in health visiting when the role is ‘hidden’?

We want to make the work of health visitors visible. The iHV has created two infographics which explain: ‘Who health visitors are and what they do’ #InvestInHealthVisiting.

Putting everything that health visitors do into a single infographic has been difficult, as they provide a vital infrastructure of support in the earliest years. We have therefore focused predominantly on the many ways that health visitors support the work of the NHS which is being flooded with rising need, as this is a government priority.

We appreciate that there is so much more that health visitors do that isn’t covered. This is just the beginning – in the coming months we will keep showcasing the fabulous work that health visitors are doing as a modern, innovative and essential workforce – a vital infrastructure for the earliest years.


iHV Infographic – Who are health visitors and what do they do?


iHV Infographic – It’s time to invest in health visiting because…

Calling all health visitors:

We invite you to find your inner warrior and share your stories on social media. How have you made a difference to babies, children and families? Support the #TurnOffTheTaps campaign and raise the profile of health visiting so every baby can get the best start in life. Together we are stronger. #InvestInHealthVisiting


We are delighted to support a parent’s call to action, campaigning for investment in ‘vital’ health visitors. Leanne, a mother of two, has urged Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to make sure every family has access to health visitors after they saved her life when she struggled with mental health problems.

Leanne Howlett

Following her experience, Leanne founded a local charity, ‘By Your Side’ – to support parents who are experiencing mental health difficulties during pregnancy or after the birth of their baby.

Yesterday, Leanne sent a letter to Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with the support of 125 parents asking for commitment to ensure that new and prospective parents, no matter where they live, have access to a high quality health visiting service, when and where they need it.

Leanne says:

“To have to reach out and say you are struggling is the hardest call you will ever make and, for many, it can feel impossible. For this reason, so many parents end up struggling at home alone, behind closed doors, afraid to speak up. I was very lucky that healthcare professionals spotted the signs, and I don’t doubt for a second that this saved my life”.

We would like to say a heartfelt thank you to Leanne and all the parents who are supporting this campaign. The spending review is a crucial moment for the Chancellor to invest in rebuilding the health visiting workforce.

Would you, as a parent, like to add your name?

If any parents would like to add their name to Leanne’s letter, please click on the link below. Please share the link with the families that you support.

Calling all health visitors:

We invite you to find your inner warrior and share your stories on social media. How have you made a difference to babies, children and families? Support the #TurnOffTheTaps campaign and raise the profile of health visiting so every baby can get the best start in life. Together we are stronger. #InvestInHealthVisiting






We are delighted to publish a Voices blog today, written by Dr Peter Green, Chair of The National Network of Designated Healthcare Professionals for Safeguarding,

Peter emphasises the important safeguarding functions of health visiting services, stating that the child and family support system has already suffered enough from post-crash austerity. Peter explains how the needs of babies and children have been forgotten about in the pandemic, which has only made matters worse. Peter highlights how the current campaign to fight cuts to health visitor services is key to reversing a decline in child safeguarding effectiveness.

Peter champions the health visiting profession stating that health visitors are vital to child and family wellbeing because they form core relationships with families without which our most vulnerable babies and children remain invisible to services. He states that health visiting is an area which should be expanded upon and that babies and children’s needs should now be prioritised in the manner that adults were in the pandemic.

We would like to say a heart felt thank you to Peter for taking the time to write this brilliant blog and for championing the health visiting profession.

#TurnOffTheTaps campaign needs you

Please join the campaign and share your stories on social media on how you made a difference to babies and children’s lives. Lets make sure all families get the help and support they need, when they need it.


We are delighted to share a case study written by Helen, who is a health visitor working in the East of England. Helen’s case study demonstrates the breadth of the health visiting role and through using her specialist public health nursing skills, was able to identify several problems which were impacting on the whole family’s health and wellbeing.

What started out to be a mother’s request for sleep support for her 10-week-old baby was actually a cry for help as the mother was suffering with perinatal illness, alongside having relationship difficulties with her partner. Helen built a trusting relationship with both parents and identified what the problems were, to ensure the whole family were supported.

Many positive outcomes were achieved for the family:

  • There was an improvement in perinatal mental health symptoms
  • The parents’ relationship improved
  • The infant and parent relationship strengthened
  • The mother ceased seeking additional support from her GP and private consultants

Helen received the following feedback from the mother:

I just wanted to say a big thank you for your support for the past year. It feels like a huge milestone reaching 12 months. I really appreciate your steady and non-judgemental support, and we wouldn’t have made it here without you. Thank you.’

Helen was able to #TurnOffTheTaps and reduce the burden on the NHS

Calling all health visitors:

We invite you to find your inner warrior and share your stories on social media. How have you made a difference to babies, children and families? Support the #TurnOffTheTaps campaign and raise the profile of health visiting so every baby can get the best start in life. Together we are stronger. #InvestInHealthVisiting