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Student midwife from Maidstone starts petition for more help with childcare costs for healthcare trainees


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A student midwife who has to spend hundreds of pounds on childcare says the lack of help from government for trainee healthcare workers is putting her under huge financial strain.

Charlotte Woolsey, 35, from Maidstone is now fighting for change on behalf of students like herself and is launching a petition to challenge MPs to make the provision available as it is for other emergency services.

Charlotte Woolsey, student midwife from Maidstone who studies at Canterbury Christ Church University and works on the wards at Tunbridge Wells Hospital
Charlotte Woolsey, student midwife from Maidstone who studies at Canterbury Christ Church University and works on the wards at Tunbridge Wells Hospital

The mother-of-two, who studies at Canterbury Christ Church and trains at Tunbridge Wells Hospital at Pembury, is calling for "fair treatment" from the government, as she seeks the extension of 30 hours of free childcare available to full-time employed workers to student nurses and midwives.

Charlotte, who started her three-year course last September after leaving Kent Police, says she works up to 37-and-a-half hours a week when on placement in hospital sometimes on 13-hour shifts, in between spells of time learning in the classroom.

She says she funds herself with "great difficulty" as she spends just under £500 a month on childcare for her three-year-old daughter Clara who attends nursery one and half days per week, while her six-year-old son is now at school.

With the help of her husband Alex, 36, she juggles parenthood and her studies; at times she relies on family members for childcare support.

Student nurses are unpaid but receive financial support to train through student loans and non-repayable maintenance grant of at least £5,000 a year.

Tunbridge Wells Hospital. Picture: Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust
Tunbridge Wells Hospital. Picture: Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust

Charlotte said: "I couldn't afford to put my children in full time care.

"It's stressful, it's not enough having to rely on family and friends is not fair, we could do we with a bit more nursery."

The petition states NHS healthcare courses run 46 weeks out of the year, yet students are not entitled to 30 hours of free childcare available to working parents.

Under current rules, a person can get 30 hours of free childcare each week for 38 weeks of the year (during school term time), if they're working.

Student nurses are unpaid but receive financial support to train through student loans and non-repayable maintenance grant of at least £5,000 a year.

This means Charlotte and others must fund their way through the course and childcare.

She said: "We're in a climate where we need midwives, we need nurses, there aren't enough of them, yet we are making it difficult for them to train.

Read More: Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust has introduced a food bank to help struggling staff.

"It makes me feel undervalued and demoralised."

Charlotte worked for police since she was 17 before starting her course and says she is unhappy with the disparity in treatment.

She continued: "In the police, if you want to be an officer and get a degree, you are actually employed in the process, so you can see the difference even though the professions are both emergency services."

The petition has 6,776 signatures, 3,224 short of being considered by the government.

The issue around childcare is in addition to several grievances student healthcare providers have with the current system in place.

Charlotte Woolsey's petition to the government for student healthcare providers to be entitled to 30 hours a week of childcare
Charlotte Woolsey's petition to the government for student healthcare providers to be entitled to 30 hours a week of childcare

She added: "If you would like to support the hard-working future workforce of the NHS, who are unpaid and who are working tirelessly to care for patients with a backdrop of under-funding and burnout please sign the petition for a fair change."

In 2020 student nurse Jessica Collins slammed MP Helen Whately's comments about the sector "not providing a service to the NHS".

Nursing numbers have boomed post-pandemic with a record 28,815 students in England of all ages selected a nursing course in 2021 as their first choice when applying to university.

The link to the petition can be found here.

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