To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the accessibility of the Government’s free childcare offer to (a) student nurses and (b) other students who rely on loans and grants rather than job-related income.
6 September 2021
All three and four-year-olds are eligible for 15 hours free early education per week, which includes children of parents undertaking full or part time study. This entitlement provides young children with high quality early education and helps to prepare them for school.
30 hours free childcare is an entitlement for working parents of three and four-year-olds. Its aim is to help working parents with the costs of childcare so that they can take up paid work or can work additional hours if they want to.
The Childcare Bill policy statement, published in December 2015, sets out that students are not eligible for the government’s 30 hours free childcare entitlement, unless they are in work. Students who undertake paid work in addition to their studies and meet the income requirements will be eligible. To qualify, students do not have to physically work 16 hours a week, but they do need to earn the equivalent of a weekly minimum of 16 hours at national minimum wage or national living wage (currently just over £7,400 a year for parents aged over 23).
Students on a low income, or whose children have special educational needs, may also be eligible for the government’s 15 hours free childcare per week entitlement for disadvantaged two-year-olds. The full criteria for this entitlement can be found on here: https://www.gov.uk/help-with-childcare-costs/free-childcare-2-year-olds.
Outside of the free early education entitlements, students who are parents may be eligible for support from the Student Loans Company, including the Childcare Grant and the Parents’ Learning Allowance (PLA). More information on support available for students can be found at https://www.gov.uk/browse/education/student-finance.
The PLA is available for full time undergraduate students with one or more dependent children to help with their learning costs. For the academic year 2021/22 students could receive up to £1,821 a year depending on household income.
With regard to student nurses, the government keeps the funding arrangements for all NHS health professionals’ education under close review, to ensure that students are appropriately supported.
The government has introduced new maintenance funding for many healthcare courses. The Department of Health and Social Care offers £2,000 for parental support per academic year. This is available for eligible students attending a full time pre-registration healthcare course, including for student nurses, at English universities. More information can be found at https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/nhs-learning-support-fund/parental-support-formerly-child-dependants-allowance.
Some students may also qualify for Universal Credit and may be eligible for the reimbursement of some of their childcare costs through Universal Credit. To qualify for the childcare costs element of Universal Credit, students need to be in paid work or about to start paid work, and the childcare costs must relate to childcare arrangements (with a registered provider) that enable them to take up or continue in this paid work.
Help with upfront childcare costs for parents starting work, or in full-time training, is also available to eligible Universal Credit claimants through Budgeting Advances and through a Flexible Support Fund award for the first payment of childcare costs. Further details on claiming Universal Credit as a student which includes a list of students who may qualify for Universal Credit can be found on GOV.UK at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/universal-credit-and-students.
We encourage all parents to view the full range of childcare support available, which can be found at: https://www.childcarechoices.gov.uk.