As the Deputy will be aware a key Government priority is to protect and support the continued education of all students, including student nurses and midwives.
I requested that a short-term review of student nurse and midwife allowances in the context of COVID-19 was undertaken. This was conducted by Professor Tom Collins at the end of 2020. This review was conducted to examine any additional challenges that the Pandemic may have created for student nurses and midwives on supernumerary clinical placement and final-year internship placement. I accepted all of the recommendations that Professor Collins made. This included the payment of a Pandemic Placement Grant (PPG) of €100 per week for each week of supernumerary clinical placement from January 2021. However, I called for the PPG to be backdated to the start of the 2020/2021 academic year.
I also directed that a second longer-term independent review of student nurse and midwife clinical placement allowances take place. This review was conducted by Mr Sean McHugh and included an examination of the existing clinical placement allowances payable to student nurses and midwives on placement.
Following this review, on 04 November 2021, I announced that the Government approved my proposal to provide significant additional supports, worth €12m for student nurses and midwives while attending their clinical placements. These temporary measures will assist student nurses and midwives while work is ongoing at my Department to progress the recommendations arising from the longer-term review.
Among these temporary measures, I extended the Pandemic Placement Grant of €100 per week to all eligible nursing and midwifery students on placement, backdating it to September 2021. This funding will support students attending their clinical placements. Furthermore, while my Department is developing detailed proposals to give effect to the recommendation relating to intern pay, the PPG shall now be extended to 4th year nursing and midwifery internship students at the rate of 50%, commencing January 2022. This will have the effect of increasing supports by €1,800 for this cohort.
The Government is also providing additional support to supernumerary students needing overnight accommodation away from their normal place of residence in order to attend some of their clinical placements. This includes increasing the cap on the vouched accommodation allowance, as outlined in Department of Health Circular 09/2004, from €50.79 per week to €100 per week of placement, which is to be backdated to September 2021.
It is important that we support our student nurses and midwives to undertake their clinical placements. I am grateful to Professor Tom Collins and Mr. McHugh for undertaking the important pieces of work as it has helped my consideration of how to best support our student nurses and midwives as they continue their undergraduate education.