A mother from Warwick Gates has written a powerful open letter to the Government urging it to prioritise the health visiting service in its forthcoming spending review.
In her letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, mother of two Leanne Howlett shares that the early days and months after her first child was born were clouded by an inability to cope and a feeling of despair.
She has said shares that she was lucky that healthcare professionals spotted the signs – which ultimately saved her life and stopped her children having to grow up without her.
The NSPCC alongside the First 1001 Days Movement is calling on the Government to invest £500 million in dedicated public health funding to train and recruit 3,000 health visitors over the three-year spending review period – an important step towards delivering the 5,000 additional health visitors needed for safe, quality practice in England.
The spending review will be announced on October 27.
The importance of health visiting was laid bare in the open letter, in which Leanne, aged 34, said: “To have to reach out and say you are struggling is the hardest call you will ever make, and for many, it can feel impossible.
"For this reason, so many parents end up struggling at home alone, behind closed doors, afraid to speak up. I was very lucky that healthcare professionals spotted the signs, and I don’t doubt for a second that this saved my life and stopped my children having to grow up without me - their mum.
“As a new parent, you are all too aware that the early days and months with your new baby are full of precious moments that you’ll never get back. But for me, and so many other women, they can be clouded by an inability to cope and a feeling of despair.
"Despite having no previous mental health difficulties, becoming a mum was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
"However, as many parents do, I plastered on a smile and told everyone I was ‘fine’.
"I am not alone in this.”
The letter ended with Leanne asking Mr Sunak for a meeting to explore how parents and their families can be better supported as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.
Up to one in five mums and one in ten dads experience perinatal mental health problems.
Through its Fight for a Fair Start campaign, the NSPCC is calling for quality perinatal mental health support to be available to parents across the UK, regardless of where they live.
Vicky Nevin, senior policy and public affairs officer at the NSPCC said: “Access to support for families and babies has been inconsistent for years, but the pandemic has thrown up even bigger challenges for parents like Leanne.
"At a time when health visitors were needed most, many were redeployed away from supporting families, and short-staffed services have struggled to catch up with demand.
“Health visitors are in a prime position to reach all families at a crucial stage in their child’s development. They provide a trusted source of support and advice at what can be a vulnerable time for parents’ mental health.
“For too long babies and their parents have been left behind.
"The spending review is a crucial moment for the Chancellor to invest in rebuilding the health visiting workforce.
"As a member of the First 1001 Days Movement, we are calling for £500 million in dedicated public health funding to train and recruit 3,000 health visitors over three years.”