Karen Parry offers a snapshot of the financial difficulties student midwives face and the options available.
Finance is a subject frequently raised and discussed within our cohort. Few of us are in a position of financial security – our group has a range of commitments and living circumstances, from those living at home with their parents to single parents caring for several children.
As student midwives, my group is free from having to pay tuition fees, as the NHS bursary picks up the cost. But not all of us receive any other bursaries as they are means tested. Parents or partners are often expected to subsidise living costs.
I do receive a bursary, which comes to £4990 per annum, excluding childcare costs. Many students on my course are able to supplement their income by working part time. But for this to work there has to be a degree of flexibility with employers and also with mentors within the clinical setting. Part-time working is not always a viable option, especially for those of us that have children or other dependants.
My husband and I carefully considered the implications that losing approximately £10,000 per annum of our income would have upon our lives. We spent a great deal of time analysing the figures, which we obtained from the NHS Bursary website calculator, and decided with some changes we could make it happen.
But in the first year, the figures we had obtained from this calculator were about £1000 higher than what we actually received, as there is a clause to the dependents’ entitlement if your partner is also an NHS student – a clause that was not visible on their website. When questioned about it later, we were sent a link, explaining this clause. At the time we thought that one of us might have to step off and earn some money and later rejoin, but our university has a hardship fund that we applied to and they provided us with a grant.
Another financial option that many, including myself, have taken is student loans, these are set at approximately £2300 per annum and are paid back once you have qualified and only if your annual income is greater than £15,000. Interest is charged at the basic rate of inflation.
Most of my fellow students recognise that they have chosen to study midwifery and have been willing to accept a fall in their income while training, yet many of us do feel that we are taken advantage of when in the clinical setting. While we are trying to learn to work safely, we do take a share of the workload and there is occasionally a sense of exploitation. Many have expressed a desire to work abroad, some planning their elective placements in the countries they hope to emigrate to. On one hand, this may not seem right as the NHS has paid to train these future midwives, yet have not really taken into account the true costs or sacrifices that many of us have and will make to become registered midwives.