In a meeting of the Communities committee today a number of Members raised the problems facing students who have been made unemployed as a result of the crisis, and student renters in hardship.
NUS-USI President Robert Murtagh said, “We are grateful to the MLAs who have brought the difficulties facing students to the Minister today and we hope that we can continue to work with them over the coming weeks to make sure that no students are left behind during the COVID19 crisis.
“We welcome the Minister’s commitment to work with us to ensure that students facing hardship are able to receive food parcels, as well as her clarification that students who are required to self-isolate are eligible for the Universal Credit discretionary support fund.
“However, we urge the Minister to consider the case of unemployed students who do not fit this category and to relax regulations to ensure all students who need to are able to access Universal Credit.
“Unfortunately, today’s meeting offers no comfort to student renters. It was acknowledged that many landlords are failing to work with their tenants to be flexible in this time of national crisis. Students are often in short-term tenancies where landlords have less vested interest in maintaining good relationships. Asking landlords to be lenient is quite simply not enough. We need the government to step in and enforce a rent suspension for the duration of the crisis, penalty-free termination of contracts, a rent freeze and for these measures to be backdated to the start of March.”