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Closed petition Provide funding to local authorities to protect health visiting provision

Any further cuts to health visiting budgets by local authorities in England will decimate this service. This will result in a service that can no longer effectively deliver the Healthy Child Programme and present a significant risk to babies, young children and their families.

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Health visiting is intrinsic to supporting children's wellbeing in their early years. Further cuts to the service will not only have a devastating impact on children and families today but will affect all of our futures. It is incomprehensible. Health visitors need to be delivering a service universally in order to identify those in need and offer support to families at the earliest opportunity. Government should give local authorities additional funding to ensure this can happen.

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Government responded

This response was given on 20 August 2021

Local authorities are responsible for commissioning health visiting services. Funding for this is provided through the public health grant, which will be part of the 2021 spending review.

Read the response in full

The Government recognises the hard work carried out by health visitors, and the important role that they have in supporting children, parents and families in the early years of a child’s life.
Health visiting is a universal service, providing a universal offer of five mandated health and wellbeing reviews. These reviews are universal in reach, but personalised in response, with health visitors providing tailored advice and guidance to support the needs of individual families. Mandated health reviews are not the full extent of the health visiting service offer, and additional support and contact is offered to families where necessary. Health visitors also refer families onto other services when required.

Since October 2015, local authorities have been responsible for the commissioning of public health services for zero to five-year olds, which includes health visiting services. This is because local authorities are best placed to make decisions for their communities based on local need. In order to fund these services, the Government provides a public health grant to local authorities, and local authorities are then responsible for using this funding to commission and deliver health visiting services as part of the Healthy Child Programme. The public health grant to local authorities in England will increase from £3.279 billion in 2020/21 to £3.324 billion in 2021/22, an increase of 1% in cash terms. Future funding for local authorities’ public health services will be part of the 2021 spending review.

Local delivery models vary, as services are tailored to meet local need. Guidance on the health visiting delivery model is provided to support local authorities’ decision-making on the commissioning and provision of public health support for children aged zero to 19. A modernised delivery model was published in March 2021. We will continue to work with the Local Government Association, professional bodies, and locally, to share evidence and guidance that allows councils to make the best decisions to meet local need. We do not advocate a specific health visitor staffing number or case load. This is because it should be led by health needs of a population.

The most recent data available on health visitor service delivery in England shows that a high proportion of infants received mandated health reviews in 2019/20:

• New birth visits completed: 97.5%
o New birth visits completed within 14 days: 86.8%
o New birth visits completed after 14 days of birth: 10.7%

• Proportion of infants receiving a 6 to 8 - week review: 85.1%

• Proportion of children receiving a 12 - month review: 77.0%

• Proportion of children receiving a 2 -2 ½ review: 78.6%

Department of Health and Social Care

Government's response to 'Impact of covid-19 on new parents' report delayed

The Government has told the Petitions Committee that their response to the Committee's latest report on the Impact of covid-19 on new parents will be delayed. The Government’s response was expected by 7 December, as the Government is expected to respond to all select committee reports within two months.

In a letter dated 13 December, Maggie Throup MP, a Minister in the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), says this is to allow time for the DHSC to coordinate with other departments on its response.

We will let you know once the Government's response has been received and published.

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Chair of the Petitions Committee responds to delayed Government response

Commenting on the delay in responding to the Committee's report, Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said:

"I am disappointed the Government has failed to respond to our report on the impact of covid-19 on new parents on time. New parents, who have faced an accumulation of adversity during the pandemic, could be forgiven for seeing this delay as yet another sign that the Government is ignoring them.

"While I appreciate our report calls for coordinated action across Government, it is vital that Ministers provide a meaningful response to our constructive recommendations at the earliest opportunity, to ensure new parents are not let down any further."

The Petitions Committee's report on the impact of covid-19 on new parents

The Committee’s report, published in October, made a number of recommendations to the Government calling for better support for new parents and their babies, including for a dedicated covid-19 recovery strategy for new parents, and additional ‘catch-up’ mental health support.

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Read the report summary:

Read the report's conclusions and recommendations:

Government responds to Petitions Committee report on the impact of covid-19 on new parents

The Petitions Committee has published the Government’s response to the Committee’s report on the ongoing impact of covid-19 on new parents.

The Committee's report was published in October 2021. Amongst its recommendations, it called on the Government to fund local authorities to arrange in-person visits to new parents by health visiting staff by the end of the year.

In its response, the Government has said that the local authority Public Health Grant will be maintained in real terms over the next three years, and that health visiting commissioners and providers should consider developing a recovery plan to address the pandemic's impact.

Read the Committee's report:

Read the Government response:

The Committee's report on the impact of covid-19 on new parents

The Committee's report, published in October 2021, highlighted the pandemic’s ongoing impact on new parents, one year on from the Committee's initial report on the issue. It called for the Government to publish a dedicated covid-19 recovery strategy for new parents.

Other key recommendations made in the report included calling on the Government to:

  • Provide additional funding for catch-up mental health support for new parents impacted by covid-19
  • Fund local authorities to arrange in-person visits to new parents by health visiting staff by the end of the year
  • Introduce stronger redundancy protections for new and expectant mothers as soon as possible
  • Commission a review into the affordability of childcare for parents and the levels of funding provided to childcare providers.

The Government's response

The Government’s response points to the £500 million announced in the 2021 Autumn Spending Review for early years services, including mental health services for new parents. However, the response rejects the Committee's call to publish a covid-19 recovery strategy for new parents.

The response also:

  • Fails to allocate funding specifically to deal with the backlog in mental health and health visiting services
  • Does not set a timeline for strengthening redundancy protections for new and expectant mothers
  • Rejects the call for an independent review into the funding and affordability of childcare.

Read more, including comment from Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP:

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