Poots slashes nurses bursaries by £890
LONDONDERRY’S student nurses and midwives have had their bursaries slashed by Health Minister Edwin Poots.
The bursaries have been cut by £890 per year with immediate effect. Health union UNISON condemned the reduction.
UNISON said the cut will take immediate effect and will affect over 500 student nurses who are starting their studies within the next two weeks.
Announcing the reduction the Health Minister said: “I realise the reduction in the non-means tested bursary may be disappointing for some students enrolling in the 2012/13 year.
“However, I remain fully committed to supporting our student nurses and midwives in their training and my Department will continue to fund training for Health and Social Care Students.”
But UNISON officer Fidelma Carolan said: “We are disappointed that the Minister ignored our concerns on the impact that a reduced bursary could have on mature students in particular accessing the programme.
“While we acknowledge a small uplift in the dependent’s allowance, it is insignificant within the context of the overall cut.”
Ms Carolan claimed student nurses currently have no access to the student loans scheme, which UNISON has argued should be made available.
Student nurses are expected to complete 2300 hours on placement over a three year period and the bursary has traditionally reflected the fact that placement commitments prohibit students from earning an income while studying.
“Attracting high quality candidates to the nursing profession safeguards patient care. The cut in the bursary will not only force potential learners to think twice, but also may increase the drop out rate, so is a false economy”, argued UNISON Nurse’s forum chairperson Eoin Stewart.
The Health Minister said that the changes aim to bring payments made to student nurses and midwives in line with other health and social care students from the 2012/13 year onwards.
The changes will mean that: firstly, the basic annual non means tested, non repayable Bursary for Nurses and Midwives entering training from 2012 and beyond will be reduced from £6055 to £5165 per annum; secondly, book and Uniform Allowance £190 will be removed; thirdly, means-tested Dependency Allowances will be increased by 5 per cent in 2012. For a spouse or first child, it will rise from £2275 to £2389 per annum and for each subsequent child it will rise from £540 to £567 per annum. Further stepped increases of 5 per cent in 2013 and 5 per cent in 2014 will be considered annually according to affordability.
Mr Poots said: “The bursary scheme was initially introduced at a time when it was difficult to attract students to train as healthcare professionals, and it is important over time to harmonise the different schemes to ensure funding is fair across professions”.
Concluding, the Minister said: “In Northern Ireland, we benefit from a highly skilled and dedicated Health and Social care workforce. I want to ensure that we can continue to deliver high quality, safe and effective services across Northern Ireland.”
UNISON said it will be consulting with student nurse members and exploring whether the policy was screened and equality impact assessed in line with Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998).
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