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Nursing student on brink of quitting after childcare benefits cut

Student Isabelle Roters is caught up in red tape with most of her childcare support cut while she works 12-hour days on understaffed wards
Woman holding a young child standing next to a window

Student Isabelle Roters is caught up in red tape with most of her childcare support cut while she works 12-hour days on understaffed wards

A nursing student is on the brink of quitting her degree after most of her childcare support was cut.

Isabelle Roters, who is studying adult nursing at Salford University, told Nursing Standard every day was a ‘struggle not to give up’ after her benefits were cut because she was not earning enough.

Working parents can claim two main types of childcare support. In one of them, tax-free childcare , the government pays £2 for every £8 paid into an online account, dependent on parents’ income.

Student Isabelle Roters is caught up in red tape with most of her childcare support cut while she works 12-hour days on understaffed wards

Woman holding a young child standing next to a window
Picture: iStock

A nursing student is on the brink of quitting her degree after most of her childcare support was cut.

Isabelle Roters, who is studying adult nursing at Salford University, told Nursing Standard every day was a ‘struggle not to give up’ after her benefits were cut because she was not earning enough.

Working parents can claim two main types of childcare support. In one of them, tax-free childcare, the government pays £2 for every £8 paid into an online account, dependent on parents’ income.

In the other, all children aged three and four get 15 free hours of childcare per week regardless of income. Many can also get up to 30 hours, depending on how much parents earn.

To claim tax-free and 30 hours free childcare, parents each need to have earned a certain amount over three months. But as Ms Roters is working unpaid hours in clinical placement for her nursing degree, she is not deemed to have worked enough to claim childcare benefits.

Unpaid placements meant her income wasn’t high enough to meet criteria

‘On my last placement I was working 12-hour days on understaffed wards and then going to do a twilight shift in the emergency department. That’s 18 hours in total, 12 of which I’m working for free as part of my placement,’ she said.

Isabelle Roters
Isabelle Roters

‘I was taking on as many paid shifts as I could, but on New Year’s Eve we were told we hadn’t met the criteria for the 30 hours or tax-free childcare because I hadn’t earned enough.’

Ms Roters claimed many nursing students are ineligible for full childcare benefits for the same reason. Many are forced to take on paid shifts while juggling their studies to make ends meet – but still their income often does not meet the threshold.

Ms Roters and her husband, a paramedic, were initially given tax-free and 30 hours free childcare when their son turned three. But when they reconfirmed their eligibility at the end of the first three months, Ms Roters’ income did not meet the threshold – in this case £1,976 over three months.

DHSC says nursing students can apply for £2,000 of childcare costs

Most of their childcare support was withdrawn in December, leaving the parents of three with just 15 free hours per week for each child. Ms Roters said the pressure to cover childcare costs, around £850 a month, had forced her to consider quitting her degree. ‘I think about leaving every day. This has all made me quite depressed, it just feels like the most thankless task.

‘It just feels so hard. We can barely afford to put the heating on. I’m supposed to be training to become part of the future workforce of the NHS and this has made it almost impossible for me to carry on.’

Her last resort was a childcare grant, which is for full-time students in higher education. But as this is based on household income, and Ms Roter’s husband was over the threshold to qualify, their application was denied.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said nursing students could apply for a £5,000 a year training grant and £2,000 of childcare costs in addition to tuition fee and maintenance loans.

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

Are you eligible for help with childcare costs?

How much each parent needs to earn over three months to be eligible for tax-free and 30 hours free childcare:

Aged 23 or over - £1,976

Aged 21 or 22 - £1,909

Aged 18 to 20 - £1,420

Under 18 or an apprentice - £1,000

Source: Government website


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