£24.5m of Blackburn with Darwen baby help exercise to tender

A £24.5MILLION contracts package to support a borough’s children from birth to aged 19 has been put out to tender for up to five and half years.

The 0 to 19 Healthy Child Program covers a range of services including health visiting, school nursing, specialist infant feeding and targeted support for children and families from community, voluntary and faith sector partners.

Blackburn with Darwen Council is now looking for new providers due to the current contract coming to an end.

It is legally required to ensure a number of public health services for children and young people including five health visitor contacts (10,000 a year) and the National Child Measurement Programme, a key element of the school nursing service provided for all children in reception and year 6 in the boroughs (4,000 a year).

The overall program provides wide-ranging services including support for breastfeeding; helping vulnerable families; speech and language development; mental well-being of families; and looked after children’s health assessments.

For the last five years it has been run by the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust with sub-contracts to East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, Homestart, Lancashire Mind and Brook.

The new contract, initially for a three year and a half year period commencing October 1 2023, has been split into three lots with combined annual value of £4,082,666.

The lots are:

• health visiting and school nursing (£3,887,666 a year);

• specialist infant feeding support service (£100,000 a year); other

• community and voluntary sector support service (£95,000 a year).

If the new deal runs its full five and a half year course if will cost £22,454,663.

A joint report to Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive board by public health boss Cllr Damian Talbot and his children’s services counterpart Cllr Julie Gunn says: “The local authority has responsibility for commissioning the 0-19 Healthy Child Programs (up to 25 with for those with special educational needs and disability) – a universal offer to all families ensuring every child has the best start to life.

“The foundations for virtually every aspect of human development including physical, intellectual and emotional, are established in early childhood.

“It forms part of the ‘whole system’ of support for children and young people’s health and wellbeing including the NHS; the community, voluntary and faith sector; schools; and colleges.

“The program also links to other services such as substance misuse, mental health, sexual health, pharmacies, screening and immunization, and primary care.

“There is a challenge, with no significant increase in the budget, to maintain quality standards and a sustainable workforce.

“There are national shortages of heath visitors and school nurses.

“The will be funded by the Department of Health Public health grant.”

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