Ofer Eitan Declares: MPs call for grants to help students in difficulty | - Jonathan Cartu Charity Foundation
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Ofer Eitan Declares: MPs call for grants to help students in difficulty |

Ofer Eitan Declares: MPs call for grants to help students in difficulty |

MPs with university constituencies are calling on the government to set up emergency maintenance grants for students from low-income backgrounds who are in financial difficulty as a result of the pandemic.

They are part of a cross-party campaign seeking to alert the chancellor to the students’ plight and calling on him to offer financial support to those who have lost jobs and are not entitled to claim universal credit.

Layla Moran, the education spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, who is leading the campaign, said students from low-income backgrounds, without parents to fall back on for financial support, were among the most economically vulnerable in society as a result of the crisis and were in need of government support.

“They are not eligible for universal credit, and many who do work throughout their studies have fallen through the cracks in the government’s furlough scheme,” she said. “That’s why I, along with 13 other cross-party MPs with university constituencies, have written to the chancellor calling on him to introduce a maintenance grant to help poorer students through these tough and stressful times. We cannot allow the most vulnerable in our society to fall through the gaps.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused huge disruption in universities, where teaching has moved online and student life has been brought to a standstill. Most students have travelled home to be with family while others remain stranded by the lockdown.

Students from low-income backgrounds who work throughout their studies in low-wage, zero-hours jobs to top up maintenance loans have been hard hit. Most have lost their jobs as the pandemic has closed businesses, yet they continue to have to pay rent and bills.

A survey of 250 university and college students who have been in care or are estranged from their family found they were most worried about being able to earn money to pay for rent and bills (62%), finishing their course (62%), mental health due to isolation (55%), and getting essential food and medical supplies (50%) during the lockdown.

While many universities have set up hardship funds, the Scottish government has announced a £5m package of emergency financial support to help students facing . Campaigners would like Boris Johnson’s government to do the same.

Becca Bland, chief executive of Stand Alone, which campaigns on behalf of students estranged from their parents and was one of three charities that carried out the survey, said: “Many students who are estranged from their family remain on campus as it is their primary residence.

“We want the government to recognise, as the Scottish government has done, that losing income for students in this position will impact their ability to feed themselves, pay their rent and subsequently their chances of graduating.”


The MPs’ letter to Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, warns that businesses relying on temporary student labour will find it far easier to hire a new cohort of students to fill vacancies when the shops, pubs and restaurants reopen, rather than furlough students that may not even be resident in the same city when the pandemic subsides.

“Many of these students will not be able to find another job but will still be paying bills and rent. Full-time students are also not entitled to benefits through universal credit. Instead, they must rely on the generosity of their parents or guardians, some of whom will not be in the financial position to support their children.”

Among those MPs who have have put their names to the letter are Caroline Lucas, from the Green party, Labour’s Clive Lewis, Claire Hanna of the SDLP in Northern Ireland, and Wera Hobhouse of the Liberal Democrats.

The Treasury and the Department for Education have been contacted for comment.

AiroAV

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