Students Union in Derry today to call for support in cost of living crisis

Northern Ireland’s national students’ union, NUS-USI is holding a public meeting today, Tuesday, in the Holywell Trust calling for support for students during the cost of living crisis.

The union’s campaign, Cost of Survival, is calling for a one-off cost of living payment for students, a rent freeze and free public transport for all students, as well a fuel payments and increased mileage rates for those who rely on cars to access their course.

Meeting at 5:30pm this evening in the Holywell Trust in Derry local students and student representatives will be talking about how the spiraling cost of living crisis is impacting students in further education colleges and universities, who were already on very low incomes. Students get funding through Student Finance NI if they are in higher education, through the Department for the Economy if they are in further education, or through the Department of Health if they are studying nursing. The rates paid to students have not increased with inflation since 2009. While the Economy Minister has committed additional funding to student hardship funds, the national union says this will not be enough to address the problems students are facings this winter.

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Chloe Ferguson, president of NUS-USI said: “Student hardship funds are designed to help small numbers of students who fall into difficulty during the academic year. Right now, all students who aren’t getting significant financial support from their families are worried about how to cope in the year ahead as the price of food, fuel and transport increases while their loans and grants stay exactly the same as they have for the last decade. Government policy – and government inaction – is creating student poverty.”

The Peace Bridge in Derry.

The Scottish government introduced free public transport for everyone aged under 22 earlier this year, and recently announced a rent freeze which includes student accommodation. The Irish government has reduced student fees, and issued a one-off double payment of student grants to help students to get through the cost of living crisis.

Chloe said: “Students from NI already get the lowest amounts of student finance of anywhere in the UK – even if they travel across the water to study. Students are on extremely low incomes, typically getting no more than a few thousand per year, and yet because they aren’t registered with the benefit system they can’t get some of the extra low income help that Westminster has promised to those on Universal Credit.

“If action is not taken we will see an increase in mental and physical health problems as students try to work full time hours whilst also studying full-time. We will see students and their families going into debt to cover basic living costs. And we will see people being forced to drop out because they just can’t afford to study. That’s the cost of survival if nothing is done to support students”

Tonight’s meeting is open to anyone to attend at 5.30pm in the Holywell Trust. Political representatives have also been invited to attend