UKSSCSC CIS_450_1997 (02 February 1998)
Mr. M. J. Goodman CIS/450/19972.2.98
Student - Project 2000 student nurse absent from course through sickness - whether a student and not entitled to benefit
The claimant was a Project 2000 student nurse, receiving a bursary paid from government funds. Unlike student nurses undertaking the traditional education and training programmes, Project 2000 bursaried students were not employed, and had "supernumerary status" as defined in the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Approval Order 1989. The claimant did practical work on hospital wards but also attended courses and instruction under the aegis of a university. Due to illness, the claimant was absent from her course for a period in excess of 28 days, as a result of which her bursary was suspended. Her claim for income support was disallowed by an adjudication officer but her appeal was allowed by a social security appeal tribunal on the ground that she was not a student attending a full-time course of study at an educational establishment within the substituted definition in regulation 61 of the Income Support (General) Regulations 1987. The adjudication officer appealed to the Commissioner.
Held, allowing the appeal, that:
- although Project 2000 student nurses differed from ordinary undergraduates in that they were not eligible to supplement their bursaries by applying for further financial support and their bursaries could be suspended if they were absent through sickness or accident for more than the specified period nevertheless such a student was a "student" within the meaning of amended regulation 61 and therefore not entitled to claim income support during the continuance of the course;
- on the evidence before them, the tribunal had not been entitled to hold that the claimant was not a student and, contrary to the view of the tribunal, when prima facie the facts pointed to the conclusion that the claimant was a "student", the burden of proof was upon her to show that she was not a student and was entitled to income support;
- the bursary was not a "training allowance" because the claimant was following a course of full-time education.
DECISION OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY COMMISSIONER
"I started as a Project 2000 student nurse in September 1993. I started at WHospital and in March 1995 I transferred to the F- Hospital training centre, as the training centre at W- Hospital closed down. I have received a bursary every month due on the last Tuesday in every month. I have never been employed by any hospital authority."
"Difference between Project 2000 (i.e. student nurses under a new scheme] and other students. The NHS bursary is greater than the mandatory award grant which undergraduates receive. The bursary for students has been set both to support the recruitment and retention of nursing students and to reflect the fact that these students are required to study for 45 weeks each year to meet statutory requirements. However, NHS bursaried students are not eligible to supplement their income by applying for loans, whereas undergraduates can apply for further financial support in the form of grants and loans administered by their local education authorities and the Student Loan Company."
"SUSPENSION OF BURSARY DUE TO SICKNESS IN EXCESS OF 28 DAYS
In accordance with the college policy on sickness absence for RN/Dip HE students, it is my responsibility to inform you that continuous sickness/absence in excess of 28 days will result in suspension of your bursary. I note that your current period of sickness has now reached 21 days, therefore if you have not returned to work by 17 July 1996 your bursary will be suspended until further notice. If you have any problems regarding this communication, please contact your personal tutor/programme director. Furthermore, if you require any advice regarding your likely entitlement to State benefits, please do not hesitate to get in touch with ... the College Bursar ..."
"I have just commenced a new job which has involved going for interviews as well as working full-time in my previous job. I am attempting to get my life back to normal following my illness and the pressures of having to complete my nurse training and take my final exam at a later date due to my period of sickness ..."
"Pre-registration [nursing] students are not liable for income tax on their bursary, do not pay national insurance contributions and are exempt from council tax. This is in line with other students following designated higher education courses ... [student nurses under the Project 2000 Scheme are] ... registered full-time students at an institution of higher education and read for a recognised academic award at a minimum of Diploma in Higher Education level. Academic and professional validation of these course ensures that programmes of study lead both to a recognised academic award and eligibility to register with the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing Midwifery and Health Visiting (UKCC), the statutory body responsible for the regulation of the nursing profession. Students have supernumerary status. This is defined in Statutory Instrument 1456, the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Approval Order (1989). This details the requirements of training which leads to eligibility to register on either Part 12, 13, 14 or 15 of the UKCC Professional Register. Supernumerary status is defined as follows:
"supernumerary status" means, in relation to a student, that she shall not as part of her course of preparation be employed by any person or body under a contract of service to provide nursing care.
This contrasts with the position of student nurses undertaking the "traditional" programmes of education and training, which preceded Project 2000, who were NHS employees. This is not the case with Project 2000 students who are not employees, are not issued with contracts of employment and who are under no contractual obligation to provide nursing care or any other service to the NHS."
Date: 2 February 1998 (signed) Mr. M. J. Goodman