To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of providing (a) financial support and (b) housing contract releases for (i) clinically vulnerable and (ii) other students during the November 2020 covid-19 lockdown.
13 November 2020
The safety and wellbeing of staff and students in higher education (HE) and the wider community is always our priority. The government is doing all it can to minimise the risks of transmission in this unprecedented situation.
The government urges universities and private hall providers to be fair in their decisions about rent charges for this period. A number of universities and large companies waived rents for the summer term or released students early from their contracts.
Students who are tenants with individual private landlords can discuss this issue with them. We encourage landlords, letting agencies and tenants to adopt a pragmatic, common-sense approach to issues that may arise in the current circumstances.
If students face financial hardship and struggle to pay their rent, support is available. Guidance for tenants and landlords in the context of COVID-19 available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-and-renting-guidance-for-landlords-tenants-and-local-authorities.
In the first instance, a student should speak to their landlord if they think they will have difficulty meeting a rental payment. In this unique context, tenants and landlords are encouraged to work together to put in place a rent payment scheme.
Many HE providers will have hardship funds to support students in times of need, including emergencies. The expectation is that, where any student requires additional support, providers will support them through their own hardship funds.
We have worked closely with the Office for Students to clarify that HE providers can draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. As a result, providers were able to use the funding, worth around £23 million per month for April to July this year and £256 million for the academic year 2020/21 starting from August towards student hardship funds.