West Somerset Labour has discovered that a decision to downgrade the health visiting service for families with young children has been rushed through by the Tory leadership of Somerset County Council. The number of fully-qualified health visitors is being cut and mothers and babies will be seen by assistant practitioners.
The decision to downgrade this vital service is a response by the county to government cuts. The budget for public health in Somerset is being slashed by £3million over the next three years. To do this, 30 per cent of health visitors will be replaced by assistants with lower qualifications and lower pay. The number of fully qualified health visitors will be cut by 40.
The decision was pushed through on November 20th by the council’s cabinet member for public health, Cllr Christine Lawrence.
Our Most Vulnerable Citizens
West Somerset Labour secretary Kathrine See said: “It is extremely worrying that despite all the evidence to show that early interventions are key to physical and mental health, social mobility and life expectancy, the Government, aided and abetted by Somerset County Council, continue to steal services from our most vulnerable citizens.
“The decision report states that there are ‘no community safety implications’. Are we seriously expected to believe that there are no risks associated with the watering down of a registered professional service with locally trained, unqualified assistants? It remains to be seen how many child development concerns and cases of post-natal depression will be overlooked as a result of this.
“ This decision comes on top of the Council’s proposal to down grade our Children’s Centres. In order to save money in the future we must invest in the present. The County Council should not be gambling with the health of Somerset’s future generations”.
The county council report on the decision admits that “reduction in capacity of public health services is more likely to impact on people from more deprived communities” It goes on to say that low income household are “tightly clustered in specific localities of Taunton, Bridgwater and Yeovil.” West Somerset Labour says this ignores evidence of low incomes and social deprivation in rural parts of the county.
The report also says “the use of skill mixing to support health visitors has been a source of discontent by parents, mainly because of the lack of relational continuity.”
The county council report can be read here: