100+ organisations (including the Institute of Health Visiting) say that despite the Prime Minister’s pledges, the needs of babies, children, and young people have all too often been overlooked in pandemic policymaking.

In a letter to the editor of the Daily Telegraph, the children’s sector has called for children and families to be put at the heart of recovery plans. The letter is published as the Telegraph launches its own Campaign for Children.

quote from Children at the Heart campaign

#ChildrenAtTheHeart

At the start of Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, the leaders of nearly 80 organisations, including the Institute, have signed a letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to make the youngest children a national priority in order to mitigate the secondary and potentially long-term impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, said:

“Health visitors have seen at first hand the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown on new families, and therefore support this important call for much more attention to be placed by government onto the earliest days. There is no other time in the lifespan where investment will save so much on later fiscal spend. It is not only the right thing to do, it also makes sound economic sense and we hope that the prime minister will want to support this call.”

The letter from the First 1001 Days Movement argues that, as politicians decide on COVID-19 relief and recovery packages, there is an opportunity now to invest in the wellbeing of babies and toddlers and the parents that care for them, as part of efforts to build back a better Britain.

The signatories, which include major children’s and mental health charities and professional bodies who are all part of the First 1001 Days Movement, ask the Prime Minister to champion a cross-government strategy for improving outcomes for all children. This should set out a vision for how families will be supported to recover from the impact of COVID-19 and how the Government will begin to ‘level up’ and close gaps in outcomes which have widened during the pandemic.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE has written to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson MP,  to ask him to start to strengthen the health visiting profession now so that it can play its part to help all UK children to be given the opportunity to have the very best start in life.  The Institute is particularly concerned by the growing rates of poverty and widening of health inequalities in the UK, both pre and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and their impact on babies, all children and their parents. This has happened alongside a significant loss of health visitors and development of unwarranted variation in the service across the UK over the past five years.

In the letter to the Prime Minister, the Institute is calling for a national strategy to start to rebuild the health visiting service now, so that it will be able to respond to a range of problems that are expected to be found when families come out of lockdown.  These include missed developmental delays, maternal and paternal mental illness, and growing levels of reported domestic violence. Science has shown that, if not recognised promptly, all can have a significant impact on an infant’s growth and development and their functioning in the future.

Dr Adams has offered the Institute’s recently published Vision document as a framework for new developments for health visiting alongside their expertise.

A mum of three boys who set up a national network of volunteer-led community activity groups for mothers to help over 1000 mums across England actively embrace motherhood together has been named a Point of Light by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Katy Tuncer set up Ready Steady Mums – local volunteer-led groups where mothers meet to exercise together, such as in a park or community centre. These groups help new mothers, who may feel cut off from friends and other sources of support after the birth, overcome feelings of isolation and depression. The groups are started by a mother, with support from their health visitor. They begin as a gentle walking group with other local mums before starting other types of physical activity, meaning there is a very low barrier for mums to get started.

Katy Tuncer, founder of Ready Steady Mums

Katy Tuncer, founder of Ready Steady Mums

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Katy has shown fantastic community spirit, taking the enjoyment and support she got from walking with other new Mums, and creating a nationwide movement to help others share the same experience.  Ready Steady Mums has grown into a wonderful way for Mums to come together in their local community.  I am delighted to recognise her as the UK’s 436th Point of Light.”