NUS UK also criticised the government for further restricting access to benefits, which will force more people into poverty.
The National Union of Students (NUS UK) and the National Society of Apprentices (NSOA) have welcomed the rise in the apprentice minimum wage to £6.40 announced in the Autumn Statement, but urged the government to go further and increase it in line with the Real Living Wage.
NUS UK also welcomed the 9.8% increase in the minimum wage and its extension to 21 and 22-year-olds, as well as the cuts to National Insurance payments, which will put more money in the pockets of students who work.
However, the decision to further tighten benefit sanctions will force more people – including students - into poverty, while suggested changes to require more people with physical and mental health conditions into work would negatively impact disabled students.
NUS UK also criticised the government for prioritising tax cuts instead of investing in education, public services and student support, with recent data showing that the average maintenance loan leaves students with only 50p per week after rent.
Commenting, NUS Vice President for Liberation and Equality, Nehaal Bajwa, said:
“Instead of prioritising tax cuts, the Chancellor should be investing in our education system and vital public services.
“69% of students work on top of full-time study just to make ends meet. Many are missing classes because they can’t afford the cost of transport, and are living in poorly insulated, mould-infested accommodation because they cannot afford to put the heating on. The minimum wage rises for apprentices and young people are a step in the right direction, but don’t do enough to combat years of suppressed wages.
“What we needed in this budget was a sharp increase in maintenance loans immediately to keep students afloat and a plan to reintroduce maintenance grants. What we got was benefit sanctions, which will leave many people without the lifeline benefits are supposed to provide and disproportionately impact disabled students.
“There is a General Election around the corner in 2024. Students will be deciding who to vote for based on their plans for education, the cost of living, housing, and mental health. The Autumn Statement does little on these vital issues.”
Commenting, Susan Loughlin and Simon Hawthorn from the National Society of Apprentices said:
“£6.40 might not seem much but it’s a big win for us. This 20% rise shows that the government are finally listening to apprentices, to unions, educational campaigners and to industry. With this increase we see things starting to move in the right direction.
“Apprentices, students, students’ unions, and our friends in the trade unions can take heart that their hard work together has paid off.
“But it is not enough; 20% might sound like a lot, but £6.40 is still barely half what the government’s Social Mobility Commission, and indeed the many companies that are part of the Real Living Wage, say is needed to even survive. Apprentices are workers as well as learners. We are building your houses, running your childcare centres, and designing the planes you go on holiday in.
“Creating an educated, highly skilled workforce is crucial to improving our country, to filling the skills gaps and providing a space for all of us to become our best selves. It’s time for a living wage for all, apprentices included.”