Health visitors warn families are being 'let down'

  • Report by Lauren Hall

ITV regional news has been told that a shortage of health visitors means they are struggling to provide enough support for parents and children. 

We've been given exclusive access to a national survey of health visitors, compiled by the Institute of Health Visiting. 

Over a quarter said they have caseloads of more than 750 children - that’s three times the recommended amount 

The majority said they are increasingly needed to help with things like behaviour, communication and mental health, as well as safeguarding and domestic abuse.

Some 39% of health visitors report being so stretched they fear there may be a tragedy,  and 42% worry they can’t do enough to safeguard babies and children.

“Our survey findings this year paint a picture of a health visiting service under pressure due to the impacts of the pandemic which affect the most disadvantaged families the most and increase the demand for health visiting support," said Alison Morton, Executive Director at the Institute of Health Visiting.

Alison Morton, executive director at the Institute of Health Visiting

"In many areas, despite health visitors’ best efforts, the service is now so stretched that they can only reach the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of need and vulnerable babies, young children and their families are being let down.”One health visitor we spoke to, who doesn’t want to be identified, says it’s down to a lack of resources and that the pandemic’s made a bad situation even worse. 

The health visitor added: "If not in the sense of physical harm, sexual harm - but harmed in that they're not going to school ready, they've not got the development and speech and language that they need, they're not toilet trained - those are still harms too."

Health visitors are able to help in all sorts of ways - from offering guidance with breastfeeding, to picking up on any health or development issues. 

Health visitors offer much more than just medical advice Credit: ITV News

They also support the most vulnerable to help keep children safe. More than 700 children’s charities and organisations are calling for more investment in health visiting. 

The government told us they are investing millions to improve support for families. In a statement, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We’re committed to ensuring everyone has the best start in Iife and health visiting services are crucial to supporting children in the early years.

“Local authorities and their teams are working hard to reinstate services to help families get the support they need and the Public Health Grant will continue to ensure investment is made in prevention and frontline services like child health visits.”