Headlines: April 17th, 2007



The Family and Parenting Institute has launched a campaign to raise the voice of parents in the debate about the future of health visiting. The Institute is seeking to protect the future of the health visiting service by securing a well funded, well trained universal health visitor network accessible to all parents of children under five.

A survey of Primary Care Trusts shows caseloads now vary wildly across England from one health visitor for 1100 children under five through to for one health visitor to 160 children. The survey also revealed that 29% of health visitors had concerns that their caseloads are so large they are losing track of vulnerable families.

Health visitors hold responsibility for supporting all new parents with the challenges of new parenthood. They are at the forefront of preventative health services and they could be the key to identifying and acting to tackle serious problems from postnatal depression, emerging parenting or behavioural difficulties to childhood obesity. Vulnerable families stand to gain most from an effective universal network of health visitors.

A YouGov poll of 4775 parents of children under the age of five who were visited by a health visitor shows that parents give health visitors a clear mandate with overwhelming support for their role. Some 76 per cent of parents wanted parenting support and advice on their child’s health and development from a trained health visitor with up-to-date knowledge. Some 83 per cent of parents wanted that support and advice in the home.

Mary MacLeod, Chief Executive of the Institute said: “The Government assures us it is working hard to provide the best possible start for children and families. Yet there is no better start for a child than having a professional at hand to help their parents give them the support and care they need. We don’t need to reinvent a new wheel, instead we need to rebuild our universal health visiting network with a new sense of purpose, a modernised career structure and a refreshed training framework. This could be the key to preventative work with all families and to supporting vulnerable families and we should cherish this service which is so well loved by parents.”