University students, particularly undergraduates but also postgraduate researchers, are among some of the most economically vulnerable in society during this coronavirus crisis.
Many don’t have their parents to fall back on or have found themselves suddenly with low incomes and no way of making ends meet.
That’s why, together with MPs representing university towns from across the political spectrum, I wrote to the Chancellor urging him to set up a Coronavirus Maintenance Grant for students who are financially struggling.
They are not eligible for Universal Credit, and many who do work throughout their studies have found themselves ineligible for the Government’s furlough scheme. Many have been let go from their jobs as the pandemic has taken its toll on business — a large number were on zero-hours contracts, to begin with.
And that’s a big part of the problem; a lot of employers have no reason to furlough these students when they could just hire a new cohort of students when they reopen. There’s no incentive for them to use the scheme.
And leaving students to rely on their parents or guardian is no solution, as some of them won’t be in a financial position to help.
When people are falling through the cracks of the Government’s support during this crisis, it’s our duty as MPs to call it out, to tell Ministers and hope the situation is fixed.
So far, for university students, that hasn’t happened.
A Coronavirus Maintenance Grant would help poorer students through these tough and stressful times, instead of letting them fall through the gaps.
I will continue to work cross-party to improve the support for students until we see the changes we urgently need.