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Fresh calls for summer payment for students facing hardship

Students are facing increasing summer hardship (Chris Ison/PA)
Students are facing increasing summer hardship (Chris Ison/PA)

Fresh calls have been made for financial aid as a survey suggested almost two thirds of students experienced summer hardship last year.

Student leaders have demanded action after a Scottish Government survey of 758 college and university students revealed the experiences of financial support in summer 2021.

It found that 57% of respondents had struggled with income over the summer more than they did during term time.

And while 63% of students faced financial hardship, the figure rose to 77% for college students in Scotland.

Less than a quarter – 24% – said they had applied for discretionary support, while 57% of whose who did apply said the process was too complicated.

The National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland has been calling for the introduction of a summer support payment to help struggling students amid the growing cost-of-living crisis.

Following the Scottish Government’s report, the NUS said students are being left behind in the financial aid available to households to ease cost-of-living pressures.

Kirsten Koss, vice-president of the North East Scotland College Students’ Association, said: “These figures are shocking and back up what NUS Scotland’s own research has shown – most students across Scotland face yet another summer of hardship, including almost four in five higher education students in colleges.

“Our bills are rising the same as everyone else but we’re cut off from student support during the summer.

“We’ve been excluded from the Scottish Government’s £150 cost-of-living payment and most of us aren’t eligible for benefits so we won’t get the UK Government’s cost-of-living payment either.

“Most students don’t apply for the hardship funding and no wonder – this survey shows that it can be a very complicated and frustrating process that often doesn’t even result in you getting the money you need to get by.

“The Scottish Government made big promises on student support in last year’s election, but we can’t pay our bills with promises.

“We urgently need a student summer payment so that no student falls into poverty between terms.”

The Scottish Government committed to a review of summer support for students during the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, which the survey forms part of.

A spokesman added: “We understand this is a tough time for many students.

“Since last June we have distributed more than £37 million in Discretionary Funds to colleges and universities to support students facing financial hardship throughout the year, including over the summer months.

“These funds are available for institutions to use up to the end of July.”

He said in February, Further and Higher Education Minister Jamie Hepburn wrote to college and university principals asking them to continue to prioritise the allocation of these hardship funds to those students most in need, and to take account of the impact of the rising cost of living.

He continued: “The minister wrote to principals again at the beginning of June to re-emphasise the importance of supporting students experiencing financial hardship, particularly as they enter into the summer months.

“Students in both Further and Higher Education currently experiencing financial hardship should apply to their college or university for support from Discretionary Funds.

“We continue to work closely with NUS and stakeholders on this survey and its findings, and reviewing the support available to students over the summer.”