The iHV welcomes today’s Petitions Committee Report which calls on the Government to publish a dedicated COVID-19 recovery strategy for new parents. 12 months on from the Petitions Committee Report last year, it is clear that the pandemic continues to impact on new and expectant parents.

The Petitions Committee Report – Impact of COVID-19 on new parents: one year on calls for:

  • extra funding and resources to allow catch-up mental health support for new parents and to boost perinatal mental health services
  • funding for local authorities to arrange in-person visits to new parents by councils, voluntary organisations or health visiting staff by the end of the year
  • a review of monitoring and enforcement activity relating to employers’ health and safety obligations to pregnant women
  • legislation on the planned extension of redundancy protections for new and expectant mothers
  • a review into the funding, affordability and provision of childcare, and the sustainability of the childcare sector

Alison Morton, iHV Executive Director, said:

“We thank the Petitions Committee for their ongoing work championing the needs of new and expectant parents which have been largely overlooked during the pandemic. This hard-hitting report adds to the growing weight of evidence that has helped raise this important issue. It recognises the vital role that parents play in raising the next generation and the devastating and far-reaching impact that the pandemic has had on babies, young children and their families.

“We share the Committee’s disappointment that despite the government’s pledges to ‘build back better’, this has not translated into any tangible action or investment to make the changes that are needed to strengthen the support that families receive during these important earliest years of life.

“We support the calls for investment into the health visiting workforce which adds weight to the groundswell of support that the profession has received from a multitude of partners in the current #TurnOffTheTaps campaign. We join with them in calling on the Government to invest in giving children the best start in life.

“It is difficult to understand what more evidence policy makers need to take this matter seriously. We are currently wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year on ‘getting it wrong’ with spiralling costs of late intervention. Babies, young children and families need action now – this cannot wait any longer.”

Investing in giving children the best start for life not only improves their life chances, but also reduces the demands on public services. As highlighted by the #TurnOffTheTaps Campaign launched last week, it’s time for a different approach. The UK is investing billions in overstretched health and social care services, which are flooded with growing needs.  It’s time to turn off the taps. It’s time to invest in health promotion and prevention in the earliest years of life.

Vicky Gilroy, iHV Head of Projects and Evaluation, said:

“The iHV is delighted that the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA), in their newly launched “Turning the Tide: A 10-year Healthy Weight Strategy”, has recognised and promoted the important role that health visitors play, providing individualised family-centred support to all families to reduce the impact of obesity.”

The Turning the Tide: A 10-year Healthy Weight Strategy, launched on 28 September 2021, makes 30 recommendations covering food and drink marketing in the early years, along with treatment, support and the need to address stigma, as well as the infrastructure needed to ensure that policies are robustly implemented and evaluated. The Strategy has been developed with an expert working group of academics, clinicians and policy experts, along with other expert advisors and OHA members. It brings together a wide range of public health stakeholders calling for evidence-informed approaches to improving healthy weight.

Key headlines from the Early Years Chapter of the Strategy include:

  1. An increase in health visitor universal ‘contacts’ (home visits or clinic appointments) to a minimum of eight
    • – Providing greater opportunities for the provision of advice and support on infant feeding and the promotion of healthy eating, physical activity and healthy weight.
    • – Enabling the early identification of children at risk of unhealthy growth with enhanced, tailored follow-up where needed to improve outcomes.
  2. Practical face-to-face breastfeeding support should be available to all women, delivered by appropriately qualified midwives, midwife support workers, health visitors or breastfeeding specialists, and assisted by trained peer supporters.
  3. Comprehensive training should enable and equip professionals working with expectant parents and families to discuss healthy weight and healthy eating in an empathetic manner, ensuring that the advice they receive is based on the best current independent evidence.

It’s time to turn the tide and halt the rise in obesity with a long-term approach to healthy weight. We support the OHA’s new healthy weight strategy with 30 evidence-informed actions. #TurnTheTide 

Public services are flooded with increasing needs. It’s time to invest in health visiting to #TurnOffTheTaps.