Back in September, Tony Blair talked about the need to improve ‘early intervention’ services to identify babies who were ‘at risk’ of becoming criminals or being ‘socially excluded’:
Again for example, midwives and health visitors already routinely screen and visit new born children – though at present the middle classes tend to ask for, and therefore get, more follow-up help.
Under the new arrangements, health visitors and midwives will seek to identify those most at risk, most simply by asking young parents or parents to be about difficulties they may be having, or about their own background. This can be supplemented by information from other public services, where we need to break down barriers to sharing data.
For those who are identified at risk, the health visitor or Children’s Centre worker will engage in a more detailed assessment to clarify and confirm the level of need. For those identified as being most at risk (around 10-15 per cent of all first born), a two-year home visiting programme will be put in place.
A bit of a blow, then, that:
The number of health visitors in England has fallen to its lowest level in 12 years, a trade union says. Amicus said there had been a 40% cut in training places for those workers and warned many cases of domestic abuse and post-natal depression may be missed.
The government has said health visitors have a key role to play in its policy of bringing healthcare closer to home. And it says the number of nurses in community care has risen by more than a third since 1997.
Maybe, but community nurses are not health visitors. It’s rather like saying a generic social worker is the same as a child protection social worker.
Putting aside for a moment the many serious doubts about the PM’s conviction that future offenders can be predicted from birth (if not in utero) it hardly seems like a coherent policy to rely on a declining profession to deliver even more services.