Suffolk County Council plans to cut more than a quarter of health visitor posts, through a combination of redundancies and not filling vacancies.
These controversial plans have sparked worry for families as health visitors help with early years physical and emotional development, offer parents support with their mental health, and provide advice on breastfeeding and healthy eating. They also play a key role in child protection and safeguarding.
Despite their importance, a report by the Observer shared that Conservative-led Suffolk County Council plan to remove 31 full-time posts from its health visitor workforce, which currently stands at 120. It's believed that the change could be pushed through by September and help the council save £1m from its health visiting, school nursing and family nurse partnership services.
Funding the council recieves from central government has dropped by £5.47m (16.7%) since 2015/16, causing councillors to scrutinise budgets and make cuts to make ends meet. But cuts health visitors could be 'devastating' opposition councillors have warned.
Cllr Kim Clements, Labour spokesperson for Women and Equalities at Suffolk County Council, said: "As a young mother to two small children, I know how invaluable health visitors are to families. These services are already stretched, so I am really concerned that these deep cuts will drive the situation to breaking point."
"If the number of vital development checks carried out by health visitors are reduced, it could mean the difference between picking up a developmental issue or completely missing it altogether," continued Cllr Clements. "I would hate to see the devastating effect on mothers and their young children, if this service was to be reduced even further."
Health visitors play a vital role in the mental health of new mothers all over Suffolk, and are often the people who discover postnatal depression, PTSD and even psychosis. Some mothers will only see another adult when their health visitor checks in.Cllr Kim Clements, Labour spokesperson for Women and Equalities at Suffolk County Council
Cllr Sarah Barber, an Ipswich Borough Councillor and a children’s nurse at Ipswich Hospital, said: "Health visitors offer such a crucial service for families, providing trusted and expert support that you simply cannot get online or over the phone."
You simply cannot replicate the specialism of a health visitor in the way that Suffolk County Council are proposing - if they then follow through with their cuts to children’s centres, it could create a cocktail of disaster for young families.Cllr Sarah Barber, Ipswich Borough Councillor and a children’s nurse at Ipswich Hospital
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