Unite has branded Tory plans to boost early years care services “ironic” given the party has spent years running them down.
Tory MP Andrea Leadsom, who has been appointed chair of a new government early years committee, aims to improve care between conception and two years old.
Leadsom told the Sunday Times last week that she plans to set up pregnancy and baby advice centres nationwide that also provide therapeutic services for those suffering from mental distress.
Leadsom said she wants to see Sure Start centres – up to a 1,000 of which have been closed under the Tories – become “a vehicle for a huge injection of support, both for prevention of harm but also to provide support for parents who just want to know when to wean their baby”.
In a letter to the Sunday Times yesterday (August 5), Unite lead professional officer for health visitors Obi Amadi described Leadsom’s plans as “ironic” due to the fact that Tory cuts have led to a 20 per cent fall in the number health visitors who would perform such duties.
Amadi wrote, “It is ironic that Andrea Leadsom wants to boost the level of care between conception and two years old, when she is a leading member of a government that’s seen a recent decline in the number of health visitors who would underpin such plans.
“David Cameron initiated the health visitor implementation plan in England which increased their numbers by over 4,000 by 2015.
“However, health visitor services are now commissioned by local councils which hold the public health portfolio. Funding has been cut which has led to a dramatic reduction in health visitor numbers – 20 per cent in two years – as well as those of school nurses.”
Amadi said the loss of health visitors is “crying shame” because they are on the frontline for picking up serious problems such as postnatal depression and child abuse.
She told UniteLive, “A professional already exists to carry out the things Leadsom is describing. That, plus more, is already in their brief.
“Health visitors have been around for more than 150 years: going into family homes, working with them and supporting them with their physical, psychological and social needs – that’s what health visitors do.”
Amadi added, “If the Tories want to achieve their plans, they need to put more financial resources into health visiting to reverse the losses we’ve seen over the past few years.”