At a time when obesity rates among schoolchildren in the county are rising, and support for vulnerable families is seriously strapped for cash, the situation is set to get worse as Suffolk County Council’s (SCC) budget for children and young people’s public health services, which currently sits at £10.8 million, will be sliced by 10% in April 2019.
In the 2015/16 academic year, 17.5% of Year 6 pupils in Suffolk were classed as obese, compared to 15.1% in the previous year, according to NHS data.
The Family 2020 document, says: “There are concerns about the resilience of families in this time of austerity, and this highlights the needs to join up children’s services with community resilience and the work of districts and boroughs to support families earlier.”
Improving the ability of families to cope with hardship is set to be a focus for leaders in the coming year.
A spokesman for SCC said: “Whilst the resilience of families is being tested by national austerity measures, we are determined to do what we can to support families, and recognise that everyone has a role to help children to develop.”
The council is also facing problems recruiting health visitors, particularly in the west of the county.
The report says this is “in line with the national shortage of nurses”, but adds “performance is beginning to be affected by a reduction in staffing levels”.
The SCC spokesman said a “recruitment and retention action plan” was in place for health visiting, which has helped secure 12 new staff members who will be starting this month.
He added: “Whilst we continue to be short staffed we have processes in place to redeploy staff and ensure that all children and families receive a suitable service, we will be monitoring our performance carefully to ensure that we continue to meet the required standards, and continue to support new mothers and fathers and their babies.”
Health visitors work in the community with families in the early years of a child’s life to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent illness.