Labour will need to increase health visitor numbers to...

Labour will need to increase health visitor numbers to tackle the coalition’s ‘woeful legacy’ on families, says Unite

21 August 2014

An incoming Labour government will dramatically need to increase the number of health visitors to repair the damage that the coalition’s austerity measures have inflicted on thousands of vulnerable families.

The call has come from Unite, the country’s largest union, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), in the wake of David Cameron’s speech highlighting so-called ‘troubled families’.

While acknowledging the government’s yet-to-be reached target of 4,200 new health visitors by 2015, Unite said that the rapid rise in the number of families needing additional support because of the government’s austerity agenda would necessitate a new Labour government increasing the number of health visitors to provide appropriate support.

The Health Visitor Implementation plan will only achieve caseloads of 276 families per health visitor and not the CPHVA recommended 250 families per health visitor. 

Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said that the prime minister had adopted a ‘smoke-and- mirrors’ approach in his speech on the importance of families.  Rachael Maskell said: “The increase in the number of families needing additional support has increased from 120,000 to 500,000 since 2011. 

“This is a reflection of the austerity-driven agenda of the government, which has seen the closure of more than 600 Sure Start centres and the reduction in services at many more.

“This has been compounded by the slashing of mental health services. There has been a 20 per cent cut by ministers, including CAMHSs (children and adult mental health services). This means specialists not being there to support families in need of help.

“In addition, the austerity-driven agenda is creating greater financial hardship and economic instability in the home, bringing additional pressures on families.

“Cameron talks of being tough on ‘troubled families’, an objectionable term, but is not addressing the causes of poverty, deprivation and the stress and pressure that families are now having to face.

“There may have been an increase short of the government’s target of 4,200 health visitors. However, we are hearing that many of those that have been trained are not getting jobs because of the financial crisis currently engulfing the NHS.

“And with a 400 per cent increase in the number of families they are expected to support, there is a serious shortfall in the  health professionals to carry out the necessary work of supporting these families.

“It is clear that one of the challenges facing an incoming Labour government next May will be to significantly increase the number of new health visitors.

“This will be a difficult task, but necessary given the woeful legacy of this government’s austerity programme and its adverse impact on vulnerable families.”


For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.

Notes to editors: 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.