Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ho hum

In today's column, Polly Toynbee writes:

...the NHS budget for tackling teen pregnancy has just been slashed from £18m to £5m.

Hmm.  The Teenage Pregnancy Unit is, of course, part of the DfES and not the NHS (source).

It is also misleading to imply that there is a monolithic central budget which represents the entirety of spending within the health service on teenage pregnancy.  As the letter that Beverley Hughes and Caroline Flint sent to (among others) PCT chief executives on 20 July 2006 makes clear (pdf link here) there is considerable regional discretion to spend money on local priorities too (as Polly acknowledges when she says that "Primary care trusts have no targets for children at risk, so NHS cuts are now harming children's programmes").


She also writes:

Does Blair actually know that the Department for Education and Skills has already bought £7m worth of health visitors in pilot areas to identify and visit problem families every week for two years, and draw them into children's centres?

Which raises again the issue of whether it is possible to know something that isn't true.  The DfES has "bought £7m worth of health visitors"?  Really?  William Wilberforce will be turning in his grave.


She also writes:

Those first three years of life are critical - a short window to intervene but a lifetime for a child. The government is watching results from the Incredible Years programme pioneered by Dr Judy Hutchings in Sure Start in Wales: children of 42% of parents on the highly structured scheme showed lasting behaviour improvement, compared with just 7% in a control group.

The Incredible Years program actually targets children aged 2-8 and not below 3 (source).

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