Parliament report into students cost-of-living pressures released

Students have told how they struggle to pay for food and heat homes in a report released today by MPs.

The report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Students, chaired by Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield, made 14 recommendations to the government and universities. 

The report is critical of the government’s approach to the challenges faced by students, noting recommendations from a similar 2019 review have not been implemented, which recommended the reintroduction of maintenance grants. 

Over 70 students organisations and unions were consulted, including University of Sheffield Students’ Union and University of Sheffield Medical School. 

A total of 800 current students also made submissions, alongside other sector bodies, such as the Sutton Trust and Student Minds. 

Recommendations aimed at the government centred around changes to maintenance loans and grants. Maintenance grants were scrapped in 2016, while the value of maintenance loans has continued to decrease since 2008, according to ONS data. 

The National Student Money Survey showed that the average loan fell short of monthly living expenses by £223 in 2020, and increased to £439 short in 2022/23 amid a backdrop of high inflation. 

One student quoted in the report said: “I don’t go out, I can’t afford to even get to class some weeks, I only eat one meal a day, and we can’t turn on the heating.” 

The inquiry was set up in January as a result of rising inflation leading to increased pressures on students’ bank balances, with the National Student Money Survey in 2022 noting the rapidly decreasing value of student loans. 

The report also makes a number of recommendations to universities, such as raising awareness of help and reducing barriers to support already available, as well as looking into how to enhance student mental health services. 

It was found that nationally, students’ unions reported a 90% increase in advice casework for students, suggesting more mental health referrals have been taking place.

In a statement on Twitter, Paul Blomfield MP said that he was “Pleased to have worked alongside @WalkerWorcester @Wera_Hobhouse @alisonthewliss @alexsobel and @CarolineLucas in listening to students and producing these recommendations to government.”

The University of Sheffield has been contacted for a comment. 

Written by Alex Simpson

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