I propose to take Questions Nos. 630 and 631 together.
Due to the current surge of COVID-19, clinical placements for nursing and midwifery students have been suspended for a period of at least two weeks from 18 January 2021. I regret that this necessary decision to suspend placements will cause an unavoidable , temporary delay and inconvenience for many nursing and midwifery students. The impact of this decision varies across the different groups of students affected. The solutions therefore will vary according to, for example, the year and stage of training the students are at and the clinical placements they were undertaking.
My Department is now working together with the HSE, the Higher Education Institutes, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland and Clinical Partners to ensure that students will not be disadvantaged in terms of completing their educational programmes on time. Furthermore, I want to ensure that the academic solutions offered to each group of students affected by the suspension of placements for the two week period, will contribute to the integrity of the educational programme and therefore will not require students to pay back the time lost in order to progress to the next stage.
Those students who may have incurred travel or accommodation expenses for this period will still be able to avail of the relevant allowances in the usual manner.