YOUNG VOICES

Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne Cuts Grants For Student Nurses - And Replaces Them With Loans

25/11/2015 14:02 GMT | Updated 26/11/2015 16:59 GMT

Student nurses are to have their grants cut and will instead have to take out loans to pay for their tuition fees, George Osborne has revealed in his Autumn Statement.

The students will stop receiving bursaries in the hope the move, which has been described as "devastating", will save up to £800m a year for the government.

Stephanie Jansky is a 26-year-old who has been studying for the past two years to gain the necessary qualifications needed to enter nursing, whilst working full time.

"I already have a student loan from a previous degree and the news today that Osborne is cutting bursaries is devastating," she told The Huffington Post UK.

"It will make it highly unlikely that I can follow my dream to become a nurse.

"I already have a large amount of student debt from my first degree and to take out another one would mean paying it back until I'm basically retired; it's not like I'd be taking on more debt to eventually get a high-paid job. I don't want to be a nurse for the money obviously, but putting myself into significantly more debt is just not an option."

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Katie, a 32-year-old graduate who said she recently had an "epiphany" after her grandmother died, planned to enrol on a postgraduate diploma in adult nursing next year.

"It's all I've thought about since that day," she explains. "I have a fairly decent paid job but I would give it up in an instant.

"Now I feel like the rug has been pulled from under me - people my age can't afford to buy a house, I certainly can't as a single person, so how I could ever afford around £20,000 more debt I don't know, particularly as my own income is all I have.

"I just don't know what I'm going to do. I have a wonderful family who were willing to help me out a bit while I was at uni because being on placement doesn't give you much time to work a paid job, but they can't help me that much.

"The NHS are crying out for nurses, more so those who have a bit of life experience behind them. But these cuts look to have more than out priced many of us."

The announcement is a step in the wrong direction for trainee nurses who, earlier this year, were calling to be paid a living wage while on placement - so they would stop being treated as "free labour".

In April, Unison members demanded healthcare students to be paid to reduce the financial burden placed on them by entering training, saying many worked 37.5 hours on rotational shifts during their placements, meaning they could not take part-time jobs to pay for their rent and maintenance costs.

Last week the head of the Royal College of Nursing warned ending financial support for student nurses could hit recruitment, deterring those from poorer backgrounds from applying.

"Anything that makes people worse off and puts people off from becoming nurses, and reduces the link between student nurses and the NHS, would be a big loss to our society and put us in a precarious position," Janet Davies said.

The Department of Health spends around £826m every year to fund 60,000 students through their three year degree courses.