We asked for feedback about the loss of the Blackpool breastfeeding peer support service, from the candidates in the GE 2017 for the two Blackpool constituencies – here are their responses: (in order of receipt)
Chris Webb standing for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Labour)
“Thanks for getting in touch. I’ve raised this issue with the Council and Councillors and highlighted my concerns. We need to ensure services like this continue to do the excellent work with new mothers. If elected tomorrow I will do all I can to help.”
Paul Maynard standing for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Conservative)
“I am a supporter of the scheme. My view has always been as that however scarce money for public health might be, it should be focused on the area’s biggest challenges. Maternal health remains a real challenge in this town and I’ve seen many examples of excellent practice, not only via the Star Buddies peer scheme but also via the Family Nurse Partnership and others down the years. It seems foolish to cut funding in areas of public health where the outcomes are often poorest. Both perinatal and antenatal health in Blackpool are major public health concerns so I share your disappointment at the decision made by the local Labour Council. The local NHS take the view that ‘breast is best’ and have been keen to recruit and train more midwives and health visitor in this area, they are in full support of the scheme. The Star Buddies not only had paid staff but also many volunteer mums who are keen to continue helping locally and have received accredited training, so whether the service continues under the Star Buddies brand or via some other means I am keen to ensure the help continues. I am hoping to set up some meetings with the Council post election on this matter and will do my best to try and reduce the gaps in service.”
Gordon Marsden standing for Blackpool South (Labour)
“Thank you for the email you sent me on the withdrawal of the Star Buddy Support Service in Blackpool. When this was first brought to my attention – in mid-May – I wanted to try and get a response and explanation from the Director of Public Health as to the reasoning for this decision.
My office contacted his office and received a general statement to the effect that although the service was well-liked and highly regarded, that because it had not been able for whatever reason to expand the number of mothers choosing breast feeding, they needed to look at other avenues via the new Better Start partnership and additional investment in the health visiting service.
I wanted to see more details on this and therefore pressed the department further for more detail and strategy. I have recently seen this and while it does essentially repeat the original argument, there are further questions I would like to pose to the new Children’s Services Director as well as the Director of Public Health.
I intend therefore after June 8th to seek a meeting with them if I am re-elected as a Blackpool MP to take those questions further. I certainly believe that those women who have contributed their time and effort to the Star Buddies volunteer scheme should be fully recognised for their contribution and be further consulted as to what role there might be for them in the future. Their enthusiasm and experience should not in my view be discarded, and though I hope that their expertise and comments were taken into account in the original ‘stakeholder feedback’ which I am told was requested, I will press the Director of Public Health further on this.
It is I am afraid a fact that Government has withdrawn £450 million of grant funding from Blackpool’s care services since 2010 which has meant they have forced many difficult decisions to be made locally. Despite this however I am told that the Better Start funding will enable enhanced investment in Health Visitors. I and my party have incidentally pledged that we would review in Government the funding and not least for outreach services in children’s centres which this Government’s cuts have affected.”