Kathleen McLaren: Health visitors vital in eary years care

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Attracted by the balloons outside the Scottish Parliament, a number of mums with their babies and young children in buggies came over to see what it was all about.

Talking to them about our Health Visitors for Scotland campaign, many had positive stories to tell about “their” health visitor: how they had gone the “extra mile” when they needed it and how they felt they could trust their health visitor’s advice when their wider family were not close by.

It was great to talk to them and it demonstrates how parents know and value our universal health visiting service.

Working with families and children, health visitors can reduce problems in later childhood, promote greater resilience and help prevent ill health throughout life.

It’s a crucial preventative service for the early years and the Health Visitors for Scotland campaign has brought together a wide range of partners in support of health visiting, including among others, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Children in Scotland, Parenting across Scotland and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Together, we’re seeking to enshrine in law the entitlement to universal health visiting services for all families and children.

We also want the Named Person, which is being proposed in the Children and Young People Bill currently going through Parliament, to be a health visitor for those aged 0-five years.

We believe that, without such an explicit commitment in law, we could see the vital role of health visitors diluted and our universal health visiting service lost.

This would be bad news for children and families, so our petition, with more than 1500 signatures in support of our campaign, was given to the Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell MSP, urging her to commit to health visiting for all families in Scotland.

The MSPs from all parties who came along to support our campaign – and those mums outside the Scottish Parliament on Thursday -–understand just how valuable health visitors are (and the babies and children in their buggies now have the balloons to prove it). Now it’s up to the Scottish Government to show they’ve been listening.

• Kathleen McLaren is the RCN Scotland board member for the Scottish Borders