The iHV was honoured to be asked to present the keynote address at the UNICEF/ WHO/ ISSA launch of their early childhood initiative at a webinar held on 14 October 2022. This international initiative is being supported by numerous nations across Europe and Asia that recognise the important contributions of health visitors and home visiting to improving child outcomes and reducing inequalities.

We have recently been provided with the link to the webinar, so you can now watch and listen to Alison Morton’s presentation at the online event, ‘Harnessing the Power of Home Visiting’. Alison’s 15-minute presentation starts at approximately 19:30 into the webinar.

Background to the webinar: In 2021, UNICEF ECARO, WHO Regional Office for Europe, and the International Step by Step Association (ISSA) joined efforts to launch Health Systems for Early Child Development initiative. This initiative is to accelerate efforts in Europe and Central Asia to build more “developmentally oriented” and family-centered health systems and services empowering caregivers to provide children with nurturing care – a safe and enabling environment that ensures good health and nutrition, protects them from threats, offers opportunities for early learning and encourages responsive and emotionally supportive interactions with parents and caregivers.

Today’s report Early Moments Matter: Guaranteeing the Best Start in Life for Every Baby and Toddler in England, published by UNICEF UK, presents stark findings that over 2 million families with children under 5 in Britain are struggling financially or with their mental health.  The report, which includes data from a new YouGov poll, reveals that 1 in 3 parents – over 1 million families – are struggling to get any professional support, with 37% struggling to get help when their child is unwell.

The report highlights how basic support services like health visiting, mental health support, affordable early education and childcare should be available for everyone regardless of where they live – but instead, gaps in availability means that families across the country are missing out. UNICEF UK warns that waiting lists are long, provision is patchy and, in some areas, not there at all. Despite the unequivocal evidence on the importance of the first years of a child’s life, the charity warns that this lack of basic support is putting children’s immediate and long-term wellbeing and development at risk, and it is also having a damaging effect on parents’ mental health.

UNICEF UK is calling on the Government to address this by providing a “Baby and Toddler Guarantee” through a nationally-recognised suite of connected services, with accountability for their delivery held at the highest level of government. The Baby and Toddler Guarantee should include accessible, quality, and fully resourced maternity services, health visiting support, mental health support, SEND provision, infant feeding support, and early childhood education and care.

The Institute of Health Visiting welcomes the call for this “Guarantee” which would put an end to the current postcode lottery of support and also advance the UK government’s mission to ‘level up’ the country. The package of services included in The Baby and Toddler Guarantee should deliver the collective commitments referenced in Start for Life Vision and Family Hubs programme, the Healthy Child Programme and the NHS Long Term Plan, which together cover universal, targeted and specialist support.

Alison Morton, iHV Executive Director says:

“I am grateful for organisations like UNICEF UK who are standing up for the rights of babies and young children, whose voices have been ignored for too long by adults with the keys of power. Lifelong inequalities take root in early childhood, yet babies and young children in Britain today are currently the innocent victims of events that they have no control over. These inequalities are not inevitable, and the report’s authors present a clear plan of action to prevent unnecessary harm. However, it is also clear that, if we fail to take the warnings in this report seriously with meaningful and swift action, they will have dangerous and potentially life-changing consequences for too many of our youngest citizens.”

The report makes the following recommendations to the UK Government:

  1. Commit to making The Baby and Toddler Guarantee a reality for every baby, young child and family across the country.
  2. Make early childhood a national priority for the Government with Cabinet-level leadership to drive the delivery of The Baby and Toddler Guarantee and ensure coherence between Government departments.
  3. Deliver across-Government strategy for early childhood that builds on the vision and commitments in Best Start for Life, and responds to the challenges of workforce, funding, and governance with joint outcomes for early childhood development that sit across departments.
  4. Commit to track and monitor progress towards delivery of The Baby and Toddler Guarantee for every baby, young child, and family across the country.

In addition to a comprehensive commitment to service provision, The Baby and Toddler Guarantee must also address the “baby blind spot”’ in government decision-making by ensuring that every decision made by any government department considers its impact on and wellbeing of the nation’s youngest citizens. Currently, this would include the government’s evolving response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its response to the cost-of-living crisis.

Sign the Petition

UNICEF UK’s Early Moments Matter (#EarlyMoments Mattercampaign launches today.

Read the report



The Institute of Health Visiting wishes to reconfirm that it always seeks to ensure its activities and publications comply with the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative. We have never and will never take sponsorship from the formula milk industry.

The Institute welcomes and supports Unicef UK’s Call to Action campaign – calling on MPs to commit to protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding both locally and nationally.

On Tuesday 5 December, Unicef UK is holding a drop-in event for MPs, to tell them about their “Change the Conversation” Call to Action and asking them to make a pledge to:

  • Commit to making their workplace breastfeeding friendly
  • Support their local health services to become Baby Friendly
  • Champion the Call to Action campaign in Parliament.

This is where Unicef UK’s campaign needs your help. Constituents’ voices are so important in raising MPs’ awareness of these issues and the need for action.

Please write to your MP encouraging them to attend the event to make the pledge. This link takes you to the Unicef UK campaign page where you can fill in your information to identify your local MP, create an email which is already prefilled with important information, and then just click to send it – it’s as simple as that!

By making this simple pledge, MPs will show that they recognise the importance of breastfeeding to the health and wellbeing of babies and mothers, and are committed to taking action to support it.

By The original uploader was Ellywa at Dutch Wikipedia – Transferred from nl.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain,


The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) announces the launch of its International membership whilst Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, iHV executive director, Professor Dame Sarah Cowley, iHV Trustee, and Dr Karen Whitaker, iHV Fellow, attend a UNICEF meeting in Leiden, Holland, as professional advisors to support the introduction of home visiting services in other countries.

iHV International membership has been introduced for those living overseas who would like to have access to the latest evidence-based research, reports, briefings and other materials relevant to the work of the health visitor.  In addition, this new category of membership helps the iHV to raise international awareness of the important role of health visitors.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, executive director, iHV, said:

“I am pleased to open up our membership of the Institute of Health Visiting to those health professionals living outside of the UK who work with babies, children, families and communities.  Membership of the iHV provides access to our vast number of excellent evidence-based resources and information to improve outcomes for children and families and reduce health inequalities.”

The announcement of iHV’s International membership coincides with Cheryll, Sarah and Karen’s attendance and presentations at a UNICEF meeting, being held in Leiden, Holland, where UNICEF is supporting the introduction of a home visiting service based on health visiting into 25 countries across Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Dr Adams added:

“I am delighted we are helping support UNICEF to introduce home visiting services into other countries. UNICEF is turning to England as a source of best practice on the central role that the health visitor plays in the lives of families due to our history and the level of experience and sophistication in our systems.  The UK health visiting service is seen as the gold standard service to emulate, with the iHV as the ‘go to place’ to support these countries.”

In 2014, the iHV hosted a meeting for UNICEF where child and family health experts from Eastern Europe and Central Asia visited England to learn about the vital role that health visitors play in health and wellbeing outcomes for children and their families in England – they heard presentations on policy, education, research, practice, health visiting frameworks and tools.

Dr Adams added:

“We’re very proud here at the Institute of Health Visiting to be working with UNICEF to help child and family experts of other countries to improve the health and development outcomes of young children and their families in their own countries.  Health visitors in the UK play a vital role in ensuring that every child gets the best possible start in life – and the iHV supports UK health visitors to do just that!  And now, with our International membership, the iHV will be helping other health professionals to achieve the same in their own countries.”

Congratulations to Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust’s (SCFT) Healthy Child Programme in West Sussex which has received an OUTSTANDING result for Stage 2 Baby Friendly accreditation by UNICEF.

SCFT’s Health Visiting and Infant Feeding Team

SCFT’s Health Visiting and Infant Feeding Team

SCFT’s Health Visiting and Infant Feeding Teams underwent a rigorous assessment process to provide assurance that they deliver the very highest standards of care. SCFT received Stage 1 Baby Friendly accreditation in July 2015 and were “highly commended”.

Stage 2 of the Baby Friendly Initiative assessment assesses the level of knowledge and skills of staff that are providing breastfeeding support and care for pregnant women, mothers and babies.

SCFT is now working towards Stage 3 accreditation. Assessors will interviews mothers across West Sussex to assess if they have been given antenatal and postnatal advice and support by their Health Visiting service as required by UNICEF Baby Friendly. SCFT aims to pass Stage 3 and to be fully accredited as UNICEF Baby Friendly in 2017.

The Institute of Health Visiting wishes to confirm that it always seeks to ensure its activities and publications comply with the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative. We have never and will never take sponsorship from the formula milk industry.


By The original uploader was Ellywa at Dutch Wikipedia - Transferred from nl.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain,

Ellywa – nl.wikipedia /

Today Dr Cheryll Adams, iHV Director, gave an inspiring keynote speech in Geneva.

Our Eastern European colleagues were inspired to hear all about our gold standard health visiting service in the UK.