Some students relying on foodbanks

Many students have to work while they study. This has always been the case, and continues to be so. Any student who is not assisted financially by parents (and some parents cannot afford to) may need to work a good number of hours as they study. However, with Covid-19, that has become significantly harder.

Three in five students continue to say that Coronavirus has had some degree of impact upon their income, a new survey from NUS (National Union of Students) has found.  Around one in five have had their hours reduced, one in ten were on furlough as the time of completing the survey, and a similar proportion have lost their job. The survey demonstrates the need for greater financial support for students, on top of the recent announcement of £20 million in hardship funding in England.

The proportion of students in part-time employment has dropped to a fifth compared to around a third in September and correspondingly the proportion who do not work at all has jumped – 49% compared to 31%.

The Coronavirus and Students Survey phase III took place in November and involved over 4,000 students, building upon the previous research issued by NUS in April and September 2020. Concern with regards to managing financially during the Covid-19 outbreak continues to be high with 73 per cent of students concerned in some way.

Two in five students continue to say they have sought financial assistance from family members and one in three have used savings. A further one in five say they have used credit cards to help them out, while 9 per cent and 8 per cent respectively have used food banks and institutional hardship funds.

As was the case in September and April 2020, half of students say that the income of someone who supports them financially has been impacted by Covid-19. And thinking ahead to beyond the pandemic, three in four continue to say they are concerned about their ability to manage financially.

Larissa Kennedy, NUS National President, said –

“These results lay bare how widespread financial struggles are amongst the student body. It is astonishing that three in five students have been affected financially by the pandemic yet it has taken until now for the government to offer any meaningful support.

“Students deserve better than having to rely on foodbanks for their next meal, or being unable to pay their rent because they cannot find employment. Our student finance system is broken, as students have to work alongside their studies to be able to afford essential bills. With lots of the jobs students would ordinarily do disappearing, many are struggling.

“The pandemic has highlighted these fundamental injustices in the education system and now we need action from governments across the UK to find a solution. Students urgently need more financial support because access to education should not be a postcode lottery.”

Ellen Fearon, NUS-USI President, said –

“The results of this survey reflect our worst fears. Students are struggling to survive as a result of the pandemic, whilst being offering only the bare minimum of support from government.

“Whilst increasing hardship funding is an important resource to help students facing crisis, these payments can often take weeks to process. With nearly one in ten students using food banks we are clearly at crisis point and Ministers need to act urgently to get more money in students’ pockets.”

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