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 But the pandemic caused a “perfect storm” where vital services and support were withdrawn from many families at a time when they needed it most.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.

The iHV is taking the following actions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • From Thursday 19 March, the iHV administration office will be temporarily closed, with our iHV office staff working remotely. We are moving our operations online/ video conferencing, so we’re continuing our work, and you can still get in touch with us via [email protected]
  • iHV face-to-face training activity is being suspended due to COVID-19 national guidance. You can contact [email protected]  for more information. We also have some exciting new e-learning packages on Domestic Violence and Abuse and Perinatal Mental Health that we will be launching in the next couple of months – keep an eye on our website and social media for details.
  • On Tuesday 17 March, we decided to postpone our Evidence-based Practice Conference “Creating Healthy Children, 2020 and beyond”, which was scheduled to take place on 12-13 May 2020 in Manchester, in light of public health concerns caused by COVID-19 – read more

We will continue with our work and thank you for your continued support – and hope that you all stay healthy and safe.

iHV welcomes a statement from a group of breastfeeding organisations calling on the new government to invest in the health of women and children by supporting and protecting breastfeeding.

They call on all political parties to commit to the following actions, if elected:-

  • To appoint a permanent, multi-sectoral infant and young child feeding strategy group and develop, fund and implement a national strategy to improve infant and young child feeding practices.
  • To include actions to promote, protect and support breastfeeding in all policy areas where breastfeeding has an impact.
  • To implement the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative across community and paediatric services, building on the recommendation for maternity services in the NHS Long Term Plan.
  • To protect babies from harmful commercial interests by bringing the full International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes into UK law and enforcing this law.
  • To commission, and sustainably fund, universal breastfeeding support programmes delivered by specialist/lead midwives and health visitors or suitably qualified breastfeeding specialists, such as IBCLC lactation consultants and breastfeeding counsellors, alongside trained peer supporters with accredited qualifications.
  • To maintain and expand universal, accessible, affordable and confidential breastfeeding support through the National Breastfeeding Helpline and sustaining the Drugs in Breastmilk Service.
  • To deliver universal health visiting services and the Healthy Child Programme by linking in with local specialist and support services.
  • To establish/re-establish universal Children’s Centres with a focus on areas of deprivation, offering breastfeeding peer support.
  • To make it a statutory right of working mothers and those in education to work flexibly as required and to access a private space and paid breaks to breastfeed and/or express breastmilk and manage its safe storage.
  • To commit to resourcing for charitable organisations who play a key role within the health agenda working at a national and local level to support families and communities with infant feeding.
  • To support the commitment to undertake an Infant Feeding Survey which builds on the data previously collected in the Infant Feeding Survey 2010 (now discontinued). To implement the recommendations of the Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly (BBF) study.

iHV is delighted to be a supporting partner in the PHE Consensus Statement: Supporting professionals to have healthier weight conversations.

iHV is 1 of 14 professional organisations for the public health workforce who have currently agreed to be listed as demonstrating commitment to taking action to prevent and reduce childhood obesity.

This consensus statement describes the intent to work together to maximise support for population behaviour change and includes a core set of principles which outline how professional organisations can support the public health workforce to help individuals and communities significantly reduce their risk of obesity in order to support the national ambition to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030.

The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) fully supports the new recommendations on supporting breastfeeding mothers published today by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), during World Breastfeeding Week (#WBW17).  The new RCPCH recommendations show that social stigma is a major barrier to breastfeeding and more must be done to support women to continue to breastfeed beyond the first few weeks.

The new guidance, based on the latest research, aims to give practical advice on how long women should consider breastfeeding and makes the case for the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child, as well as the cost savings to families and health services.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, executive director of the Institute of Health Visiting, said:

“We warmly welcome this new guidance from RCPCH on supporting women to continue breastfeeding beyond the first few weeks.  Breastfeeding is natural, but not all mums find it easy, and some mums cannot or choose not to do it, so we must respect that too.  Mums often need support, and health visitors are one of the key healthcare professionals to help mothers establish breastfeeding through the universal health visiting service, but there is a need to educate the wider public and change the attitude and culture of society around it.”

The RCPCH recommendations include:

  • Governments in each nation to ensure familiarity with breastfeeding is included as part of statutory personal, social and health education in schools;
  • UK Government to legislate for employers to support breastfeeding through parental leave, feeding breaks and facilities suitable for breastfeeding or expressing breast milk;
  • Local breastfeeding support to be planned and delivered to mothers in the form of evaluated, structured programmes;
  • The NHS to ensure the preservation of universal midwifery services;
  • UK Governments to commit to adequate resourcing to preserve universal health visiting services;
  • Public Health England to develop a national strategy to change negative societal attitudes to breastfeeding;
  • Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Governments to review and evaluate their existing breastfeeding promotion plans;
  • The NHS in England and the Welsh Government to follow the lead of the Scottish Government and the NHS in Northern Ireland by requiring all maternity services to achieve and maintain UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation; this requirement is currently met by all maternity units in Scotland and Northern Ireland;
  • UK Government to reinstate the UK-wide Infant Feeding Survey, which was cancelled in 2015, to ensure reliable, comparable data on breastfeeding is recorded across the four nations;
  • All healthcare professionals should be aware of local and national support for breastfeeding mothers.

Dr Adams added:

“We at the iHV will be working with the RCPCH to support their campaign to improve breastfeeding in the UK to help women to continue breastfeeding beyond the first few weeks and help change societal attitudes by educating the wider public.”

The iHV is one of a group of healthcare professionals to sign a letter, issued to all media, including parenting magazines and websites, stressing the safety of vaccinations and the importance of getting children vaccinated.

Statement from UK healthcare professionals on the importance of childhood vaccination

Statement from UK healthcare professionals on the importance of childhood vaccination

“As healthcare professionals, we want to send a strong message to parents. Having your child vaccinated is the only effective way of protecting them against many serious and potentially fatal diseases. Routine vaccinations are safe and thoroughly tested long before they are made available to the public. Vaccines strengthen our own immune defences against disease.

“Illnesses such as measles, mumps and rubella are serious and can lead to severe life-long
complications and sometimes death, in children and adults. These diseases can be prevented with vaccines. Although most of us have never seen them in our lifetime, they  will return if children are not vaccinated. This would be a tragedy that can and must be prevented.

“Vaccinations are safe, effective, and crucial to safeguarding child health.”

Professor Neena Modi, President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Dr Cheryll Adams, CBE, Executive Director, Institute of Health Visiting
Professor Simon Capewell, Vice-President for Policy, Faculty of Public Health
Nicola Close, Chief Executive, Association of Directors of Public Health
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing
Professor Lesley Regan, President, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of Council, Royal College of General Practitioners
Cathy Warwick, CBE, Chief Executive, Royal College of Midwives