The government must reverse cuts to council’s public health budgets in the forthcoming spending review to help address a fall in the number of children’s health visitors and protect young infants, the Local Government Association has warned.
The number of children’s health visitors has fallen from 10,000 in 2015, when councils took on the responsibility for commissioning health visitors, to 8,000 - excluding those working outside the NHS.
The LGA says the levels of children’s health visitors retiring and taking other NHS jobs combined with too few trainees entering the profession has led to the workforce being “stretched to its limits” at a time when the number of vulnerable children and families is rising.
The closure of the Health Visitors Implementation Plan in 2015 led to an immediate fall in new training places of 22%, The LGA said.
Councils’ public health budgets have also reduced by £531m between 2015-16 and 2019-20.
Ian Hudspeth (Con), chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said children’s health visitors working in local government play a “pivotal” role in ensuring all children get “the best possible start in life”.
He added: “Health visitors have increased the number of contacts they make with children and families, including offering vital support via schools, nurseries and children’s services, which has led to better outcomes such as an increase in school readiness.
“However, the funding has simply not kept pace with the scale and demand and we now face a serious shortfall in the number of health visitors, which has to be filled if we are to continue to meet the needs of families in each of our communities.”