As part of a series of podcasts on the first 1001 days of life, Alison Morton, speaks to Dame Andrea Leadsom DBE on the importance of health visiting. Published today, this podcast was recorded in 2021 following the announcement of the government’s investment in the ‘Start for Life’ vision.

Alison Morton, iHV Executive Director, says:

“The iHV is a non-political charity working with all parties to raise the profile of the first 1001 days and the vital support that health visitors provide to families. With such a weight of evidence to support investment in the earliest years of life, it was good to be able to celebrate some investment in the Start for Life vision with Dame Andrea Leadsom on this podcast. This represents a significant shift in policy direction for babies, young children and families, and recognition of the importance of laying strong foundations for health and wellbeing in the earliest years.

“There is still so much more that needs to be done to translate the Start for Life Vision into reality – we look forward to this work being built upon by the new government. In particular, to translate this vision into reality for all children, much-needed investment in workforce will be needed to end the current postcode lottery of support for families and bring stability to the health visiting profession. We look forward to working with the government on next steps.”


The Institute of Health Visiting welcomes Saturday’s announcement by the Government of the 75 local authority areas selected for a share of £302 million to create new Family Hubs in England.

The announcement puts an end to an anxious wait for local authorities, and was made as part of a broader package of family-related announcements, including announcements relating to the Supporting Families programme and the government’s holiday activities and food programme. The full press release can be found here; it includes the names of the 75 eligible local authorities. The methodology for pre-selecting the 75 local authorities eligible for the programme can also be found here.

The Family Hubs and Start for Life programme is jointly overseen by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education. The Best Start for Life Vision to give every child the best start in life was launched last March, and the funding settlement was first set out in the autumn budget.

The £302 million for the Family Hubs and Start for Life programme includes:

  • £100 million for bespoke parent-infant relationship and perinatal mental health support
  • £82 million to create a network of Family Hubs, improving access to a wide range of integrated support services for families with children aged 0-19
  • £50 million to establish breastfeeding support services
  • £50 million to fund evidence-based parenting programmes
  • £10 million to support local authorities to publish a clear ‘Start for Life offer,’ and
  • A further £10 million to to trial innovative start for life workforce models.

Importantly, the Government has stipulated that the health visiting service is central to the success of the Best Start for Life Vision and is listed as one of six essential services that will form the core of the infrastructure of support available to all families in the Family Hub model.

Whilst no specific ‘ring-fenced’ investment in health visiting was forthcoming in this announcement, we have been advised by Government Advisor and Chair of the Early Years Review, Dame Andrea Leadsom MP, that health visitors will be ideally placed to make the most of this investment and deliver increased packages of support to address the priorities of breastfeeding, parent-infant relationship and perinatal mental health support and evidence-based parenting programmes as part of an integrated system of support. Within the 75 local authority areas, 5 areas will also receive a share of £10 million to trial innovative start for life workforce models to strengthen health visiting support.

Alison Morton, iHV Executive Director commented:

“This announcement will be good news for 75 local authorities who will receive much needed investment to strengthen the support that they provide to babies, young, children and families during the critical first 1001 days of life which lay the foundation for future health, wellbeing and success across the life course.

“To achieve their ambition to tackle health disparities and level up, it is vital that the Government also invests in the universal health visiting service which is a preventative public health service that ‘goes upstream’ and reaches all families – ideally preventing problems happening in the first place or identifying them early.

“Currently too many vulnerable children are ‘invisible’ to services and are missing out on the support that they need – we must do better and, to ensure that we do, we need more health visitors. We hope that this announcement marks the start of a shift in national policy that prioritises the critical first 1001 days of life. Vulnerable babies, young children and families live in every postcode, and further investment is needed to ensure that the Start for Life vision becomes a reality for the whole country.”

The iHV will be working with local authority areas to support the development of their evidence-based ‘Start for life’ offer and integrated pathways. We invite any local areas who are interested in our consultancy and sector-led improvement work to contact us for further information on bespoke packages of support at [email protected].

Further information on integrated pathways for perinatal and infant mental health (PIMH) support and the latest PIMH research can be found here, and the role of health visiting and who health visitors are can be found here.



Today, as announced by Sally Hogg during her presentation at the iHV Evidence-based Practice Conference 2021 (#iHVEBP2021), iHV together with the First 1001 Days Movement is launching our #TurnOffTheTaps campaign calling for investment in Health Visiting services.

#TurnOffTheTaps campaign

The focus of Government policy and spending is too often on dealing with a backlog of unmet needs, rather than reducing this need through improving the health, happiness and resilience of our citizens. We are investing billions in overstretched health and social care services, which are flooded with growing needs. It’s time for a different approach. It’s time to turn off the taps. It’s time to invest in health promotion and prevention in the earliest years of life.

The Chancellor has said that the Spending Review, announced this autumn will ensure “strong and innovative public services” and level up across the UK to “increase and spread opportunity.”

Investing in services that give children the best start in life reduces demands on GPs, hospitals and social care. It means children start school ready to learn and to achieve, so our schools can be more effective. Investing at the start of life gives our children the best chance of being safe, happy and healthy throughout their lifetime and into old age.

Science shows us that action in early life can prevent problems that can be costly to individuals and society. Economics shows that investment at the start of life generates the greatest returns.

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. This will enable local authorities to create strong and innovative Health Visiting services able to play their role in increasing opportunity for our citizens and reducing long-term burdens on the NHS.

Alison Morton, Executive Director iHV, commented:

“I am delighted that so many organisations and individuals have joined alongside the iHV, as part of the First 1001 Days Movement, calling for investment to deliver the Government’s Start for Life Vision and increase the number of health visitors.

“We hear daily how the NHS is flooded with growing need – now is the time to #TurnOffTheTaps.

“The evidence is clear that investing in the earliest years of a child’s life is the smartest of all investments – we don’t need any more evidence for this. It is time to stop admiring the problem and invest in the infrastructure of support that will actually make the difference.

“We urge all health visitors to join this campaign and speak out about the vital work that they are doing. We would also like to thank all of our partners for their unwavering support.”

What is the #TurnOffThe taps campaign?

It is clear that reducing short term burdens on the NHS is a priority for the Government. Therefore our campaign focuses on how investment in health visiting can reduce demand for NHS services.

Our Health Visiting Ask

  1. We are calling for investment to deliver the Government’s Start for Life Vision, including improvements in parent and infant mental health services, breastfeeding, maternity and health visiting services.
  2. This includes a £500 million ringfenced uplift in the Public Health Grant over the next three years which would enable growth in health visitor numbers and strengthening the leadership in health visiting services.
  3. We are calling on Government to invest enough to reach a total of 5000 new health visitors over the next 5 years, with 3000 in this spending review period.
  4. In addition to the extra health visitors, the £500 million includes funding to increase the leadership capacity in health visiting service. This additional capacity would enable service leaders to drive excellence in practice through workforce development, research, service innovation and strong integration with other services.

How can you get involved?

The most important thing you can do is to tell your story. Get on social media and/or contact your MP and share YOUR stories about how health visitors give children the best start in life and can help to reduce demands on the NHS.

To support this campaign, you can:

  1. Share the calls to action on social media  – please see hashtag #TurnOffTheTaps
    • Please share content about the campaign from Wednesday 22 Sept onwards and increase activity around the 30 Sept, but please share your own stories too!
  2. Send a letter to your MP
    • Tailor the letter template and send it to your local MP. Tailor the letter to your local context. Perhaps explain what you do and invite the MP to visit your service; give a case study to show the work of local health visitors and/or talk about local cuts to services.
    • Please include the campaign briefing with the letter when you send it.
    • To find your local MP’s details go to

What the First 1001 Days Movement is doing

In addition to the materials to support you as above, the First 1001 Days Movement will:

  • Submit a formal representation to Treasury.
  • Write to Maggie Throup the new Public Health Minister
  • Try to secure press coverage for the campaign

What iHV is doing

Further to above, the iHV will also be submitting our response to the Spending Review on the 30 September with a consistent ‘ask’ of the Government to invest £500m in health visiting from across the sector.



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.

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.