Students: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered at on 21 May 2020.

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Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what (a) support and (b) guidance he is providing to students who have returned home from university during the covid-19 lockdown and are being required to (i) pay rent for their accommodation, (ii) remove their belongings but not return and (iii) pay for storage, removal and cleaning costs.

Photo of Michelle Donelan Michelle Donelan Minister of State (Education)

As my right hon. Friends, the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer have both made clear, the government will do whatever it takes to support people affected by COVID-19. Students will continue to receive scheduled payments of loans towards their living costs for the remainder of the current 2019/20 academic year.

To provide further support, we have worked closely with the Office for Students to enable providers to draw upon existing funding to increase hardship funds and to support disadvantaged students impacted by COVID-19. As a result, providers will be able to use the funding – worth around £23 million per month for April and May - towards student hardship funds, including for the purchase of IT equipment and mental health support.

The government encourages universities and private hall providers to be fair in their decisions about rent charges for this period. A number of universities and large companies have waived rents for the summer term or released students early from their contracts.

The government guidance makes clear that tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy, published on 11 May, sets out a cautious roadmap to ease existing measures in a safe and measured way. The strategy allows for certain necessary travel if people take precautions.

In light of this, we are developing guidance on students travelling to and from student accommodation and this will be published today.

We have made clear meanwhile that we do not believe that students should be fined for failing to collect their belongings if this is because they are complying with the government’s travel advice.

If a student has asked their accommodation provider to store their belongings for collection once the COVID-19 lockdown period is over, there may be costs to the provider associated in carrying out this service. We would not expect a provider to make a profit from such a service.

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