Families protest over cuts to breastfeeding support

Friday, August 2nd, 2019 12:40pm

By Jenny Bonson & Joe Burn, Local Democracy Reporter @newsjenny

A protest has been staged outside Stoke-on-Trent City Council offices by families concerned over plans to axe the Community Feeding Team.

It offers support to breastfeeding mums, providing medical referrals if needed.

Families are concerned if the service is cut, mums could face a 15-week wait to see a lactation specialist at the Royal Stoke University Hospital. 

The authority says it will not be renewing the CFT contract because it was not improving breastfeeding rates, and not providing value for money.

It said it would instead be looking to expand the peer support programme.

As part of today's demonstration, a petition signed by more than 5,200 people against the plans has been handed in to the council.

That means it must now be debated at the next full meeting of the authority.

Speeches were made in front of the city council offices on Glebe Street 

The petition was started by Meg Jorsh, who volunteers at the Breasts and the City group.

Speaking at today's protest she said: "They are leaving the whole thing in the hands of volunteers who they did not even warn.

"We found out about this through the people who were being made redundant.

"It is going to have a catastrophic effect on anyone in the city who wants to breastfeed.

"They  cut the service dramatically in 2015, so it was already a skeleton service.

"Now they are just leaving everyone high and dry."

Stoke North's Ruth Smeeth and Stoke Central's Gareth Snell, both Labour MPs, turned out to support the protest.

Ruth said: "This is an appalling cut when what we really need is more investment to support families, especially when they are struggling in so many other ways.

"Being here to support the mums who are making it clear that this is one cut too far from the council is really important for me."

Gareth said: "When my daughter was first born feeding was a real issue, but there were services available to advise and guide.

"I acutely understand what an apprehensive time it is for parents when feeding isn't going right.

"Removing this service will just compound that misery.

"I think the council really needs to think about the impact of what it is doing."

Stoke Central MP Gareth Snell and Stoke North MP Ruth Smeeth joined protesters outside the Glebe Street offices

A council spokesman said: “The decision not to renew the contract for this service is about providing value for money services that make a real difference to people’s lives.

“We absolutely recognise that breastfeeding makes a key contribution to a child’s health and development – and also has many benefits for mothers – and we want to see the best support available in order to increase its uptake within the city.

“Clearly the current arrangements are not delivering the outcomes we collectively want to achieve, which is unacceptable. We want to ensure as many mums as possible benefit from services that meet their needs.

“We welcome feedback and we will do everything we can to make sure the correct – and most effective – support is available, leading to an improvement in breastfeeding rates in the city.”

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