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Health visitors warn budget cuts are putting safeguarding at risk

Health visitors have warned that cuts in local authority health budgets are causing them to have unsafe workloads, leading to safeguarding concerns, a new survey has revealed.

The State of Health Visiting Survey, an annual survey carried out by the Institute of Health Visitors (IHV), found that 85% of health visitors say that their workload has increased since 2014. While the recommended caseload for safe practice is around 250 cases, 16% of health visitors said that they are now dealing with between two to four times that figure.

The IHV said this is affecting services for new mothers and their children and is calling on the government to invest more money into public health.

Dr Cheryll Adams, executive director of the IHV, said: “Our annual survey of the state of health visiting shows a radical downgrading of this public health asset, which serves the most formative period of children’s lives.

“Health visitors should provide a universal service to every family in the country with a child under the age of five. This survey hence exposes the risks to all children and families from a decommissioning of health visitor posts, which it seems is just about to accelerate. The impact will not only be felt by children and families, there will be a knock-on effect on the NHS and other local authority services such as safeguarding services.”

The survey found that only 70% of all families report that they are receiving the mandated health visitor reviews when the child is six-to-eight weeks, one year and two to two-and-a-half years of age, and only 30% of all families are receiving the antenatal visit.

Of those surveyed, 72% of health visitors said they were concerned about providing inadequate safeguarding and child protection support.

In August of this year, 11 CEOs of major health bodies such as the Royal College of Nurses and the NSPCC wrote an open letter to the Times saying that government cuts to the Health Visitor Implementation programme are causing a deterioration in public health.

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