Posted: Sat 26th Aug 2023

Students facing homelessness and financial struggles as cost-of-living hits

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Aug 26th, 2023

Eight per cent of students in Wales have experienced homelessness during the cost-of-living crisis. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

That is one of the worrying findings of a new National Union of Students Wales (NUS Wales) survey, which also revealed that half of those students who have been homeless had experienced it for longer than a week. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

With rent, energy bills and other housing costs rising at an unprecedented rate for well over a year now, almost a quarter of students in Wales said they had been unable to find suitable, affordable accommodation in the 2022-23 academic year. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The poll of 570 students, carried out over the summer, found that 32 per cent had been unable to pay rent and 36 per cent said the same of bills. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The report also shines a light on the negative academic impact of students having to pick up extra work shifts. The majority of students work alongside their studies, and 1 in 5 work more than 20 hours a week. 64% of those who do work said it negatively impacted their studies. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

On top of this, 1 in 5 students in Wales have missed in-person classes because of the cost of transport and 9% have missed online classes because of the cost of broadband or equipment such as a laptop. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The findings show that maintenance support for students in higher and further education in Wales is failing to reflect the cost of living, and NUS Wales is calling on the Welsh Government to do more to support all groups of students, including apprentices on the £5.28 minimum wage. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

There are a significant number of students in Wales who will not benefit from the Welsh Government’s 9.4% increase to the undergraduate maintenance package or the 33% increase to the EMA for FE students. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The report’s findings are consistent with the findings of a similar survey conducted in 2022. A quarter of students in Wales continue to live on £50 or less a month after paying rent and bills – figures consistent with this time last year before any support had been announced. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

NUS Wales President, Orla Tarn, said: “The fact that not much has changed for students in Wales, who continue to be left with so little to live on, should be a real red flag for the Welsh Government that it will need to act again to support students in 2023-24. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“One of my main concerns continues to be students’ mental health. We know that money troubles, housing issues and poor work-life balance can all be detrimental to your sense of well-being, and during the cost-of-living crisis all three have become more pronounced for many students. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“The Welsh Government acted last year by raising the undergraduate maintenance package and the EMA for further education students, but swathes of Wales’ student population – including students from outside of Wales, postgraduates and apprentices – have not benefited. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“I urge ministers to take these groups into account when designing support schemes and take real action to get spiralling student rent under control. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“The Welsh Government’s White Paper on Fair Rent cannot come soon enough for students paying through the nose for accommodation.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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