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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.

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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

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