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Students are relying on foodbanks as hardship funds run dry, says NUS

Monday 18 May 2020

Students are increasingly turning to foodbanks to support themselves through this pandemic as university and college hardship funds run dry, said Zamzam Ibrahim, NUS National President to the House of Commons Education Committee today (Monday 18 May).

Calling on the UK government to establish a student hardship fund, she revealed new evidence that shows many university and college hardship funds are running out of money.

Many institutions are having to fundraise amongst their alumni in order to be able to offer current students the financial support that they need. One institution has had to fundraise to get their fund to £40,000, and yet they are still only able to offer students a maximum of £500.

Another institution has had over 200 applications and has awarded over £30,000 in the last two weeks alone. Once their funds have run out there will be no further support. Students are only eligible for awards if they have less than £500 in their bank account

A Russell Group university has had over 800 applications for their first round of COVID-19 hardship support, exhausting their total pot of £220,000. They are now fundraising to allow them to provide further support.

As these emergency sources of funding run out, universities are having to look at other ways of supporting students, including establishing foodbanks. The practice of students using university-run foodbanks during this crisis has now been described as ‘widespread’.

Recent support measures announced by the government have not been adequate to prevent this, as no new funds have been issued towards institutions.

NUS is calling for the establishment of a hardship fund of £60m, plus additional funding which should be delivered through the Barnet consequential to bolster and sit alongside existing student hardship support across the UK. Explaining why this is so urgently needed, Zamzam Ibrahim, NUS National President, said:

“Students across the UK are in urgent need of financial support and should not have to rely on the benevolence of their predecessors for their next meal. Many have lost their main sources of income during the current pandemic and 80 per cent of students are concerned about their ability to manage financially.

“We know that individual institution hardship funds are doing their best, but they are already overwhelmed and having to fundraise to provide further support or set up foodbanks to ensure students can feed themselves.

“The government keeps telling us ‘we’re in this and will get through this together’, but we shouldn’t have to rely on past students and the public putting their hands in their pockets to make sure students can have a meal. We need the government to take action and provide a Student Safety Net. This must include £60 million of hardship funding, in new money, to ensure no student is put at financial risk as a result of the pandemic.”