The health visiting service is ‘stretched to its limits’ due to underinvestment and a shrinking workforce, local authority leaders have warned.
The Local Government Association estimates that there is the full-time equivalent of about 8,000 children’s health visitors working in the profession, compared to 10,000 in 2015.
This 20% drop is the result of retirement, too few trainees entering the profession, and too few health workers staying on in their roles.
Under investment is also a major factor, the LGA warned.
The closure of the Health Visitors Implementation Plan in 2015 led to an immediate reduction in new training places by 22%.
Councils have also seen a £531m cash terms reduction to their public health budgets between 2015/16 and 2019/20.
‘Health visitors have increased the number of contacts they make with children and families, including offering vital support via schools, nurseries and children’s services, which has led to better outcomes such as an increase in school readiness,’ said Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.
‘However, the funding has simply not kept pace with the scale and demand and we now face a serious shortfall in the number of health visitors, which has to be filled if we are to continue to meet the needs of families in each of our communities.
‘Councils need well-trained, highly skilled health visitors but can only employ those who are available to them.’