Today, the First 1001 Days Movement has released a new report: “Why Health Visitors Matter: perspectives on a widely valued service”. This report is a compilation of short testimonies about why health visitors are important in ensuring that all babies and children are safe, healthy, and able to thrive. The testimonies showcase the vital role of health visitors, demonstrating the breadth and depth of their work.

The First 1001 Days Movement is a campaigning alliance of over 200 organisations who work together to promote the importance of sensitive and nurturing relationships for babies and young children’s emotional wellbeing and optimal development. The iHV is privileged to be a member of the First 1001 Days Movement steering group and we are indebted to all the members of this alliance who have joined together to call on the Government for investment in health visiting. This forms part of the Movement’s wider ambitions to drive change by inspiring, supporting, and challenging national and local decision makers to value and invest in the first 1001 days.

Key messages from the report:

  • Health visitors have the potential to do so much for our babies, our families, and our public services.
    The first 1001 days is a period of opportunity and vulnerability. Support for our babies, children and families is needed now, more than ever. Health visitors support children’s development and help to keep them safe. They are skilled Specialist Community Public Health Nurses able to engage and build relationships with families, understand their health and care needs, offer support and intervention, and broker engagement with other services.
  • Current resourcing decisions mean that many health visitors cannot effectively do the important work they were trained to do.
    Since 2015, when responsibility for health visiting was transferred to local authorities, it is estimated that at least 30% of the health visiting workforce has been lost, with further losses forecast. The Public Health Grant has fallen in real terms from £3.99 billion in 2015–16 to £3.3 billion in 2022-23, this is at a time when need has increased.

Currently, the health visiting metrics include phone and virtual appointments as “reviews”; and the latest quarterly data shows that 18.6% of babies missed out on their 9-12-month review and 27.7% of toddlers missed out on their 2-2.5-year-old review. More children are also falling behind with their development, yet fewer are engaging with services such as early education and childcare.

There is wide and unwarranted variation in health visiting support between different local authority areas. Urgent national and local action is needed to ensure that all babies and young children receive services that they need and meet national guidelines.

Alison Morton, Executive Director, iHV said:

“We welcome this report which is published at a critical time in our country’s journey through the pandemic and its wake. It lays bare the problems and far-reaching impacts of years of under-investment in health visiting on babies, young children and their families. The report is also focused on finding solutions – it presents a series of testimonies from those who have first-hand experience of the breadth and depth of the health visiting service and the difference that it can make when sufficiently resourced.

“The report is a call to action – babies can’t wait. Will we be satisfied to accept the picture that is being painted of ‘ghost children’ being let down by ‘ghost services’ that have been stripped bare and left ill equipped to manage the level of unmet need? We have a real opportunity to make a difference before it is too late – we join with members of the movement and call for concerted action from national and local government, united by a shared vision to do better for babies.

“We thank all the report contributors who generously gave their time in sharing their experiences and testimonies to bring to life the real and solid difference that health visiting can make for babies, children, families, and our future society.”

The report has 4 policy calls:

  • Local authorities must commission and fund health visiting services that are able to offer a high-quality service to all those who need them in line with the Healthy Child Programme.
  • The UK Government must properly resource local authorities to enable them to provide health visiting services at al level that delivers everything that government and NICE guidance expects of them, and that families need.
  • The UK Government must do more to encourage local authorities to invest in health visiting services and to hold them to account when services are not meeting national guidelines.
  • The UK Government must also address shortages in the health visiting workforce: it is time for a demand-driven, well-resourced national workforce strategy and plan.

How can you help?

The First 1001 Days Movement needs your help to make the case for better services for our babies, children, and their families.

You can help by:

  • Sharing the report, and your perspectives on why health visitors matter, with local decision makers and politicians, with your networks, and on social media. You can use the hashtag #HealthVisitorsMatter, share the link to the report and tag: @first1001days @sajidjavid and @iHealthVisiting
  • Writing to your MP and asking them to attend the NSPCC’s parliamentary event on 16 May (details here)
  • Writing to the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, about their concerns.

 

 

 

 

 

First 1001 Days logo

The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) joins over 60 First 1001 Days member organisations who have today jointly written to the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, asking him to address the impacts of the pandemic on babies and their families, and to take longer-term action to ensure all our children have the best start in life.

Alison Morton, Executive Director iHV, said:

“The importance of getting it right for every child cannot be over-emphasised. The needs of babies, children, and young people have all too often been overlooked in pandemic policymaking. Although some money has recently been spent on mitigating the impact of the pandemic on older children, nothing has been spent or allocated to children aged under two.

“We now need the Government to prioritise on babies’ health and wellbeing, and those of their families, to ensure that all children have the best start in life. Giving our babies the best start in life can improve health and wellbeing for decades to come and positively impact future generations.”

The letter describes three things that the Secretary of State should prioritise to make a significant difference:

  1. Securing funding in the upcoming Spending Review to deliver the Government’s Best Start for Life vision.
  2. Setting out clear expectations in the Health and Care Bill that local partners will cooperate in order to improve outcomes and reducing inequalities for children in the first 1001 days.
  3. Ensure that the new Office of Health Promotion can intervene when a local area is not delivering the Healthy Child Programme or is experiencing poor, declining, or unequal outcomes in the first 1001 days, providing additional support and resources where needed.

Preliminary insights of the Early Years Healthy Development Review were outlined by Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP at the APPG on Conception to age two meeting, held on Tuesday 19 January 2021

At the online APPG, the First 1001 Days Movement ‘s Working for Babies: Lockdown lessons from local systems report was formally launched – read our news story on this.

Speaking at the online event, Andrea Leadsom said that the report findings ‘chime totally’ with what the Early Years Healthy Development Review has found.

The F1001D report presented hard-hitting findings about the direct and indirect harm to babies, young children and their families caused by the pandemic during the Spring 2020 lockdown. These “hidden harms” were broad and significant, and experienced unevenly depending on family circumstances and background. The report also highlighted how there are often ‘baby blind-spots’ where babies’ needs are overlooked in policy, planning and funding.

Andrea Leadsom’s Early Years Healthy Development Review, due to be published at the end of February, will look at issues around joining up services; improving the use of digital services to reach parents; data sharing and local leadership.

She told the APPG attendees that evidence is emerging that services for babies have been ‘particularly better’ since the latter part of last year, when second and third lockdowns took place, largely because staff were not moved away as much as they had been in the first lockdown.

The Early Years Healthy Development Review will give six recommendations which, by the time it is launched in February, Andrea Leadsom hopes will gain the approval of all the political parties so that this early years review will be ‘the one that sticks and endures’ for many years to come.

She talked about the possibilities of harnessing the benefits of digital technology to provide consistent and joined-up support to new parents. The use of data-sharing will enable professionals to provide ‘much more focused support on what families need’ and less time will be spent for parents retelling their story to different professionals.

Andrea Leadsom thanked early years professionals for their amazing work during the lockdowns ‘who have done so much to support new families in such difficult period’ and to reassure them that ‘these lessons would be learnt’ and reflected in the Early Years Healthy Development Review.

 

iHV welcomes a new report published today by the First 1001 Days Movement (F10001D) which provides insight into the impacts of COVID-19 and the Spring 2020 lockdown on babies.

The report, Working for Babies: Lockdown lessons from local systems, presents hard-hitting findings about the direct and indirect harm to babies, young children and their families caused by the pandemic. These “hidden harms” were broad and significant, and experienced unevenly depending on family circumstances and background.  Historically inadequate or insecure funding, and a rising tide of need, has inhibited the ability of some services and local systems to respond to the needs of babies and their families during the pandemic. There were often ‘baby blind-spots’ where babies’ needs were overlooked in policy, planning and funding.

However, the report also provides some “good news stories” of organisations and systems which reacted and adapted positively to the pandemic. The report introduces the concept of “baby-positive” local responses and provides the beginnings of a formula for what good local systems should look like. In particular, it sets out the positive difference that was made by professionals who were connected to each other, and to their communities, and were empowered to meet families’ needs.

Most importantly, the report seeks to ensure that lessons are learned for the future of service provision for this age group. It provides further evidence of the importance of many things that the iHV campaigns for, such as clear leadership, a focus on babies’ needs, and a joined-up response.

Alison Morton, Acting Executive Director of the iHV said:

This report adds further weight to the growing body of evidence on the direct and indirect impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families with babies and young children. The message is clear, despite the indisputable evidence that the first 1001 days are the most crucial period of human development, babies and young children have largely been forgotten in the national pandemic response. Now we know better, we must do better.

“We hope the report brings a much-needed tipping point for change. It provides a powerful impetus to the Government to focus their efforts on the things that matter most by investing in our youngest citizens, to put things right and achieve their ambition to ‘build back better’.”

Working for Babies: Lockdown lessons from local systems

The report will be officially launched today at the APPG on Conception to Age Two meeting. For those not able to secure a space on at the APPG meeting itself, F1001D will be live streaming it at 3pm this afternoon via the Parent Infant Foundation YouTube channel. It will also be available to watch back later.

Please get involved by talking about the report on your social media channels! Get involved with the conversation and the report by using the hashtags #WorkingForBabies  #BabyBlindSpots on social media.

 

 

Following today’s statement from Ofsted which says that abuse and neglect of babies is up by a fifth compared to the same period last year (as covered in the Guardian here and on by the BBC here), The First 1001 Days movement has issued a statement – read part of it below:

We are deeply saddened to see reports today about the awful harms suffered by babies during the pandemic. Ofsted reports that the numbers of babies who have suffered serious injury through abuse or neglect during the Covid pandemic is up by a fifth on the same period last year, and eight have died from their injuries.

These are not the only babies who will have suffered harm as a result of the pandemic, sadly they are only the tip of the iceberg. Many other babies will have experienced adversity and emotional trauma during these difficult times.

The harms are undoubtedly a result of the “pressure cooker” of the pandemic, and the enormous additional stresses faced by families. This additional stress was all too predictable, as we have warned since the spring about the impact that the pandemic and lockdown have had on families during this crucial period of their children’s early development.

Some of these harms were preventable. The suffering experienced by babies might have been identified early, prevented or mitigated with professional support. But the pandemic caused a “perfect storm” where vital services and support were withdrawn from many families at a time when they needed it most. The redeployment of health visitors, reduction in contacts with families by many services, and pivot to digital and telephone service delivery – where babies are often invisible – all hampered services’ ability to protect our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

Many charities, including those in the Movement, have been warning of these harms for more than six months, but little action has been taken. There must be no more delay, Government must act quickly to strengthen vital services that can prevent future harm to babies and support the recovery of all of the families who have already suffered as a result of this pandemic.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, commented:

“As a member of the F1001D Movement we fully support their statement. It is very sad that the number of babies losing their lives in infancy has increased, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly this was predicted early in lockdown. All the research suggests that, with the right resources, these figures should be reducing not increasing. We really hope that the publication of these figures will encourage government to take investment in the early years of life as seriously as they do other critical times in a person’s life course. Indeed, with sufficient investment in early life, large sums of money could be saved across the later life course.”

The F1001D Movement calls on Government to:

  • take urgent action now to increase the resources available to services, including, but not limited to, health visiting and children’s services, which can play an important role in protecting our babies and young children.
  • give local commissioners the resources they need to fund targeted and specialist services – including statutory services and charities, such as parent-infant teams – which can help families to recover from the harms caused by the pandemic.
  • commit to learning lessons from the lockdown to inform the restructure of Public Health England and revision of the Healthy Child Programme, recognising the value of high quality health visiting services and the important role they can play in protecting and promoting babies’ health and wellbeing.
  • ensure there is joined up action across Government, with clear leadership at the Cabinet table, to ensure that babies are kept safe and receive the nurturing care they need to thrive. Babies’ needs must be kept in mind in future decision making.

Babies must not pay the price for measures introduced to protect the health of the wider population. Government must protect all our children – from pregnancy onwards – during this difficult time.