Health Visitors (England)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham 4:30 pm, 23rd October 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the reduction in the number of health visitors in England.

I am grateful to the hon. Members who have come to speak on this important subject. I declare an interest as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group for conception to age two—the first 1,001 days. I also chair the board of trustees of the Parent-Infant Foundation, which runs attachment facilities and lobbies for better early intervention around the country.

I will start with some slightly alarming statistics. The cost of perinatal mental ill health in this country has been worked out at £8.1 billion per annum, according to the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, with up to 20% of women experiencing some form of mental health problem during pregnancy or the first 12 months after birth. The cost of child neglect in this country has been estimated at some £15 billion, with 50% of all maltreatment-related deaths and serious injuries occurring to infants and babies under the age of one. We currently spend in excess of £23 billion getting it wrong in those early years, particularly for mums and new babies. That is equivalent to something like half the Defence budget.

There are 122,000 babies under the age of one living with a parent who has some form of mental health problem. Amazingly—this statistic came out time and again during conversations on the Domestic Abuse Bill—a third of domestic violence begins during pregnancy, and suicide is one of the leading causes of death for women during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth. About 40% of children in the United Kingdom have an insecure attachment to a parent or carer at the age of 12 months, according to Professor Peter Fonagy and others. Alarmingly, there is a 99% correlation between a teenager experiencing some form of mental illness or depression at the age of 15 or 16 and his or her mother having had some form of perinatal mental ill health during pregnancy. It is that close a correlation, making it that much more important that we make sure that the mums bearing those children, and also fathers, are as happy, settled and healthy as possible in those early stages, from conception to age two.