RCM gets behind petition for funded childcare for student midwives

By Colin Beesley on 15 June 2022 Midwifery Midwives Student midwives Student attrition SMF - Student Midwives Forum

A student midwife and RCM member has issued a clarion call launching a petition for funded childcare for student midwives, nurses, and paramedics. Charlotte Woolsey - a midwifery student at Canterbury Christ Church University - started the petition on the UK Government petition website and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has got behind Charlotte to back her petition.

“It’s ludicrous when not a week goes by when we do not hear of the state of UK maternity services and the desperate need for more midwives that many are being deterred from the profession because of this. I started this petition because upon starting my degree in September I had to give up my eligibility to claim 30 free hours of childcare for my daughter who is now three,” said Charlotte. “Having raised the issue among fellow NHS students I became aware that this is impacting on a huge proportion of student midwives, nurses, paramedics, and doctors. Some have had to put their ambitions on hold until their children start school. Some have been crippled financially, some are working 50 plus hour weeks juggling employment alongside study and some didn’t even realise they weren’t entitled to the 30 free hours and are now trying to come to terms with the fact they may not be able to begin their new careers in September. These are the careers they have studied years for and fought with everything to be offered a place on.”

In her petition commentary Charlotte says that midwives and other health professionals in training are on full time courses running for 46 weeks per year, like many with full-time jobs. Despite this, midwifery and other health students are not classed as full-time workers, so do not have access to the 30 hours free childcare, for 38 weeks per year, available to working parents. The cash value of the support available varies across the country but can be worth as much as £8,960.40 per year in London. When the RCM heard about Charlotte’s petition it quickly got behind her to support it, adding its voice to the growing numbers of supporters.

The petition has also attracted the attention Charlotte’s local MP, Helen Whately. She has committed to raise the issue of the petition with ministerial colleagues in the Department of Health and the Department for Education, and has also asked to meet Charlotte to discuss her petition.

“I ask people to get behind Charlotte’s petition, to offer their support and sign it. If we all pull together, we can really raise the profile of this issue and put it on the political radar” said Vicky Richards, the RCM’s Interim Director for Wales, and its lead on student midwife issues. “Across the UK student midwives are working full time in university or out in our maternity units, with most having to borrow the money to pay to train as a midwife. Childcare costs on top of that are a massive burden for them. That is why this petition is important and why the RCM have put their weight behind it.”

Petitions posted on the Governments’ petition website can lead to real political action. If a petition gains 10,000 signatures it will get a government response. If it reaches 100,000 it will be considered for a debate in Parliament. Charlotte’s petition is running until 16 November 2022 and has so far attracted almost 8000 signatures.

Ashley Sandsmith is the RCM’s Student Midwife Forum (SMF) representative for South-East England and is supporting Charlotte with her petition. "The SMF’s purpose is to be the face and voice of student midwives within the RCM. We identify and debate issues of concern for students. Considering how many student midwives and aspiring student midwives have already engaged with Charlotte’s petition, it is evident that this is an issue that affects many,” she said. “The lack of childcare support is causing student midwives financial hardship, and undoubtedly preventing others from beginning their training. The solution is clear, and the SMF will push for student midwives in England to have access to the same support as their counterparts in Scotland and Wales.”

Charlotte’s petition comes as the RCM celebrates the commitment of midwifery students to the profession on its Student Midwives' Celebration Day today. The RCM’s Student Midwife Forum (SMF) are holding a virtual event to celebrate with fellow students. This is also an opportunity for RCM student members to meet some of the SMF.

For information on the SMF event and RCM Student Day visit SMF host student midwives’ celebration event (rcm.org.uk).