The Institute of Health Visiting fully supports today’s call by The King’s Fund and the Health Foundation for a reversal to cuts made to public health funding.
We endorse their call for an urgent review of the public health allocation as part of the expected roll-over grant in place of the anticipated full Spending Review. In particular, we call on the Treasury to carefully consider the wealth of evidence and benefits to society and the public purse from investment in supporting families during the crucial first 1000 Days of Life. Our children are this country’s greatest asset for the future, yet disadvantage and inequalities start early and can last a lifetime if not addressed. Recent year-on-year cuts to the public health grant are having an irreversible impact on our most disadvantaged children. These children cannot wait any longer for decent policies to ensure every child has the best start in life, with sufficient national levers and budgets to support full implementation. We are calling for action now, and our case for a strengthened health visiting service is set out in our recent letter to The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
We fear that the damage done in the last 3 years will take many more to correct without urgent action now. It is fundamentally and morally very wrong that it’s been necessary to cut child health clinics and easy access to health visiting services in many areas of the country and, in so doing, the support they once provided for thousands of parents. Prevention and early intervention is often described as “turning off the tap rather than mopping the floor”. This is essential if we are to tackle key priorities like childhood obesity; infant, child and perinatal mental health problems; falling immunisation rates; and soaring unnecessary A&E attendances in the under-fives that could so easily be addressed with better early support and opportunities for parents to talk about their worries with a trusted professional. There are now massive variations in the type of service that health visitors can offer parents up and down the country, with minimal services most often the norm.
We too call on the Treasury now to fulfill their responsibility to the public by once again investing in public health and early preventative interventions for families.