Government announces ‘new student Covid hardship funding’ – of just £20 per student

That’ll pay…two days of rent?

The government has announced £50 million in new hardship funding for students affected by Covid –  a figure which works out at just £20 for each of the country’s 2.46 million students.

After weeks of calls to support students banned from returning to accommodation they’re paying for, and prevented from working, the government’s package would cover around two days’ rent for every student.

In the announcement, the government stopped short of providing students with rent refunds, instead “encouraging” providers to offer partial refunds, and “welcoming” those who had already done so.

“Thousands of students will benefit from an additional £50 million to support them with financial pressures from the pandemic,” the government announced.

The funding, which adds to an existing £20m pot already announced by the government, will be distributed to universities, who will decide how to allocate it to students.

For context, the government spent more on two days of Eat Out To Help Out.

The £50m figure is less than the business rates relief provided to businesses in the Oxfordshire constituency of Banbury during the pandemic, and smaller than the amount given in “bounce back” loans to businesses in the Yorkshire constituency of Beverley and Holderness.

Instead of offering rent rebates to students, or compelling providers to do so, the government asked nicely, saying: “The Government also welcomes the decision from many universities and accommodation providers to offer rent rebates for students who need stay away from their term-time address, and encourages other to join them and offer students partial refunds.

“It asks all providers of student accommodation including universities, to make sure their rental policies have students’ best interests at heart and are communicated clearly.”

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said: “This continues to be an incredibly difficult and challenging time for our students, and I am hugely grateful to all the university staff working hard to prioritise their health, wellbeing and learning during this pandemic.

“The additional £50 million that we are announcing today will mean we have distributed £70m for hardship in this financial year alone – on top of the £256m of government-funded student premium which universities can use for student support this academic year.

“This additional support will provide real, tangible help for those students struggling financially as a result of the pandemic.

“We will continue to prioritise a full return to education as soon possible, in line with public health advice. I am also working with universities and professional bodies to ensure students can graduate as planned.”

NUS National President Larissa Kennedy said the funding was welcome, but did not go far enough: “This announcement is a testament to the hard work and campaigning of students and students’ unions. Many students are currently under extreme financial pressure as a result of the pandemic: they are falling behind on their rent and bills, and needing to access food banks.

“However, this will not be enough to tackle the scale of the issue. If Westminster did the right thing and matched the hardship funding being made available in Wales for students the amount needed would be more than £700m.

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