This past week has highlighted how the people of Kent are suffering from further cuts to services.
On Monday it was announced that Kent County Council had decided to press ahead with the £400,000 cuts to breastfeeding support services.
This was despite a staggering 1,294 responses to the consultation (the average last year was 156 per consultation) and an evidence based campaign from ‘Keep Kent Breastfeeding’.
Data from Unicef indicates that 81% of mothers wish to breastfeed their babies at birth, but only 17% babies are still exclusively breastfed at 3 months.
The health benefits of breastmilk are well known. We are particularly concerned over the impact on the emotional health of mums who want to breastfeed and are not supported to do so, and as such experience a sense of failure, this is at a time when postnatal depression is on the rise.
A 2015 study by Netmums indicated that one quarter of all new mums experience loneliness.
NCT research shows that good breastfeeding support has practical and psychological benefits for mothers; impacting on the wellbeing of their babies.
Breastfeeding support workers had the luxury of having time to spend with mums. I think we all recognise that, with the best will in the world, Health Visitors who will be expected to take on the task and void left as a result of these plans will not have the time to spend with women.
It seems KCC did not comprehend the value of breast peer support workers and thought only of the initial costs.
Maybe, having awarded themselves a 12% pay rise last year maybe it is inevitable KCC Councillors would need to make cuts.
The cuts to breastfeeding support were not the only indication that family needs are not the priority of KCC this week.
Last Friday The Royal College of Psychiatrists revealed Kent have only 3.75 child and adolescent psychiatrists per 100,000 children.
The lowest number in the country.
In London, the tally is around 17. With a national average of around 8, it is evident that Kent is leap years behind the UK.
And that is no mean feat when you consider many councils and people across the UK as a whole are suffering immensely from austerity.
The toll it takes on parents and families is immeasurable.
I ( Lisa) have written about my personal battle with child mental health services as a Kent parent and was asked to appear on the BBC local news to talk about the effect it has had on me and many other families throughout Kent. You can read my article here https://theavengeruk.com/2017/09/18/my-open-letter-to-the-pm-about-how-austerity-affected-my-childs-mental-health/
It is a sad fact that life is not easy for many Kent children.
The End Child Poverty Coalition estimate more than 93,000 children in Kent are living in poverty.
Shelter estimate 2000 children in Kent are homeless.
An investigation it carried among people living in emergency B&Bs and hostels found every family living in a single room, with 25% having no access to a kitchen and 50% having to share toilet and bathroom facilities.
Imagine growing up in those conditions!! And it begs the question, where is the help for these families?
The suffering and endless misery does not stop there.
Since 2015 the average Tory cut in funding to each primary school has been £54,000, and to each secondary school it has been £205,000.
Teachers and parents are having to fund vital equipment. And now they’ve denied 1m children a free hot school meal. Unless the DUP own you of course; children Northern Ireland is exempt from these cuts
It seems that no service is safe.
Maybe it is unfair to place the blame squarely on KCC. Tory austerity has hit them hard.
● The council is expected to make around £75m of savings next year, out of a £900m budget.
● In the past five years the council’s grant from central government has been cut by £185.4m.
● The council says it has made savings to the tune of £417m in the same period, because of the drop in funding and increased demand in services
But yet this remains the sixth richest country in the world!
Yet at every turn our children are failed time and time again. Budgets are cut to shreds and it seems to be children who are on the receiving end. What a sad state of affairs this is.
We will be taking a closer look over the coming week of how austerity has affected services across Kent.
Without awareness we cannot seek to change what is happening.