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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 May, 2004, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Childcare allowance for nurses
Nurse
Nurses say they need a living wage
A new childcare allowance for nursing students has been announced by Health Secretary John Reid.

Under the scheme, up to 85% of childcare costs could be met, helping about 6,000 students per year.

Students with one child can apply for up to 114 per week, and those with two or more children up to 170 per week.

Delegates at the Royal College of Nursing annual conference in Harrogate welcomed the move, but said it did not go far enough.

Most of our students are not parents.
Rod Thompson
Rod Thompson, an RCN member from Dundee, said better funding was needed for all students.

He said all student nurses, not just those with young children, needed a decent living wage.

"What you said today about bursaries is wonderful, is valuable, but most of our students are not parents," he said.

Gill Robertson, student advisor to the RCN, said problems around childcare access and working tax credits would still need to be addressed.

"We are looking forward to discussing further with the government the issues of the lack of child care places and the impact of this benefit on working tax credits."

Millions

The scheme is expected to cost the government 17million per year to fund. From this September, NHS-funded students will be able to apply for help with childcare costs during their studies.

John Reid acknowledged that nurses would like a greater commitment to student training funds.

"I know that students want more money. But we genuinely are trying to allocate the biggest ever increase in the history of the NHS for the longest ever in the fairest possible fashion.

"In many ways nursing students are actually better off than any other students," he said, because they do not have to pay tuition fees.

In addition, he said there were bursaries available to students that could go up to 5,700 which was significantly larger than when Labour came in to government.

Signficant step

Stephen Burke, director of the national childcare charity Daycare Trust, thought the new allowance would make a significant contribution to parents' childcare costs and should help with recruitment and retention.

"It will be warmly welcomed by parents training to join the NHS professions.

"The costs of childcare are a major barrier for parents who want to train and work. The costs of childcare are a major barrier for parents who want to train and work."




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