Ministers have been accused of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’, as the rise in health visitor numbers has been offset by cuts elsewhere and an increasing population of children.
Unite, the country’s largest union which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), also warned that George Osborne’s current consultation on £200 million cuts to the public health budget could also act as a counter-weight to the target of 4,200 extra health visitors that the previous government narrowly missed.
The warning comes as a CPHVA survey of 751 health visitors across England revealed that 89 per cent said that their workloads have involved taking more responsibility for children/families over the last year.
Nearly 50 per cent said that the chances of a child death, such as that of Baby P, happening in their trust or board was ‘somewhat likely’ (37 per cent) and ‘very likely’ (10 per cent).
Unite professional officer Dave Munday said: “Despite the boost to health visitor numbers due to the implementation plan, health visitors are not reporting the benefits on the frontline.
“This is due to the increasing number of children/families as the population rises and cuts to associated services, such as Surestart and children’s mental health services.
“The boost started by the last government only ever corrected the previous large cuts to the service – it was a valuable exercise in helping health visitors to catch up with the increasing demand for their services.
“Focus needs to remain on improving both the service and the numbers during and after the transfer of commissioning for public health to local authorities which is set to occur on 1 October.
“The consultation on George Osborne’s £200 million cuts to public health budgets was launched last week. And what’s worrying is that the consultation wasn’t on if they should happen, but how. It is a fait accompli.
“The government needs to reverse this decision as it will impact negatively both on HV services as they are not ‘protected’ from the cuts in themselves and the associated services that support families.
“We want to avoid what appears to be a looming ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ situation that sees the recent gains to the health visitor service being severely eroded by other cuts to public health budgets planned by this government.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
- 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.