I recently met with Student Union officers from Sussex University to discuss issues facing students in Brighton and Hove.
Regarding the cost-of-living crisis, there are serious concerns that students have been left behind by existing Government support, with the NUS ‘Student Cost of Living Report’ revealing that a third of UK students have £50 or less to live on per month after paying rent and bills - and 42% are surviving off less than £100. Student representatives in my constituency said that this was the experience of many local students and, taking into account Brighton's higher cost of living in comparison to most other cities, they were extremely concerned about the welfare of students struggling to afford basic essentials. There is also a very real possibility of a detrimental impact on student mental health and outcomes of their education as a result.
In the midst of this cost-of-living crisis, and with the undergraduate student maintenance package in England rising by just 2.3% this year, many students are asking how they can possibly be expected to manage?
The local student union in Brighton, and the NUS nationally, have said that increasing student maintenance loans in line with actual, rather than forecast, levels of inflation would help significantly, as would giving students who need additional financial support access to Universal Credit. Many students feel they have been excluded from general interventions intended to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis such as energy grants and one-off payments to households. Access to other welfare support would help address this.
I would be grateful to know what conversation have taken place regarding any uplift in the student maintenance loan and urge you to take the steps I have outlined above in order to genuinely support students through this ongoing crisis.
I look forward to hearing from you.