By Gemma Walsh
Hundreds of mums from Stoke-on-Trent are still fighting today to keep their breastfeeding services running.
After news on Friday that funding cuts would see staff numbers reduced from 13 to just four part-time positions, there are major concerns that it will be impossible for the Infant Feeding Team to continue.
The Infant Feeding Team offer physical, as well as emotional, support to the hundreds of breastfeeding mums in Stoke-on-Trent, offering cafes to help with education on positioning and attachment, and tongue tie revision.
They also support surrounding areas as feeding teams from North Staffordshire have since been cut completely.
Their previously 365 day a year helpline has also been cut from 24/7 to business hours.
With the new cuts this is set to disappear.
The mums are not going to let their beloved service disappear without a fight.
Since their meeting on Monday, they have formed a plan of action and taken to social media to put a face to the cuts and show how vital it is to parents.
They have also secured publicity from local media, radio and television.
However, trying to get answers for who is responsible for these loses, and how to try and save them, has lead to confusion over the budget cuts.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council offered out the contract, using money from their public health budget, and accepted the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership Trust (SSOTP) to carry out the commission to provide these services for the coming year.
The contract, which is currently worth £170,000, has since been the point of much debate. In previous years the contract was offered at £179,000, a difference of 5%.
Confusion has come from many who could not understand why only a 5% drop in value is leading to such drastic changes within the service.
Stuart Poyner, Chief Executive of SSOTP, has been helping to clear up some of the confusion:
“That funding is the funding that came along with the service which is what the council have now, which is where the confusion seems to have come from.
“Four years ago, in 2011, what we did get was a large chunk of money from UNICEF which came for two years until the end of 2013.
“That gave us extra money to beef up the service because of the breastfeeding rates in Stoke.”
Since this funding ended, the SSOTP have been picking up the bill to keep the team running at the same level.
MP’s Tristram Hunt and Ruth Smeeth have also joined the campaign to keep the service, with Tristram writing to leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council Dave Conway on Monday urging him to ‘reconsider his damaging decision’.
However, this new information shows that the only decision made by the council was to cut their contract down by £9,000 – money which they are now using for a initiative to reducing smoking in pregnancy.
The council have since hit back saying:
“Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent NHS Partnership Trust bid for and won the contract on the basis that they would be able to provide similar or better levels of service.
“SSOTP is responsible for any staffing changes within their organisation.”
This has left mums worried that it would be impossible for the same level of service to continue if the staffing cuts were to go ahead from September 1st.
After a meeting with the mums heading the campaign, Stuart has agreed to help in any way he can, including looking into other forms of funding and researching into services in other parts of the country to see where Stokes services may be able to improve.
He is also planning on producing a video of the mums stories to help provide midwives with a better understanding of what support may be needed to help with any gaps in training.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council also commented that they are willing to work with SSOTP to find solutions to any funding gaps.
In the meantime most mums are eager to make sure their voices are still heard.
Mum of two, Antonia Dykes said:
“A main point that came across is that non of the powers that be really have a clue what the service actually offers.
“This campaign is making them see that.”
Despite funding issues, the users of the services, including mothers who are yet to give birth and worried about how they will be supported, are eager to show how much the Infant Feeding Team is used and what it means to them.
Their message is not about the funding, instead pushing the point that it is all about trying to maintain the services the way they are to enable the best support system for mums.
Their story will be covered tonight at 6pm on ITV Central News and they will be taking to Twitter with their stories using the hashtags #SaveOurIFT and #StaffsHour from 8-9pm tonight.