STUDENTS in Glasgow are calling for the government to relax Universal Credit criteria to allow vulnerable students left without income in summer months, The Glasgow Times can reveal.

Last week saw the last instalment of student loan payments for Scottish students.

Many will now be left for the summer unable to work usual summer jobs in bars, clubs and restaurants or travel to find seasonable work elsewhere and will face a devastating loss of income.

Students are not eligible for Universal Credit.

Many have been left feeling isolated from government response to the Coronarivus crisis.

Glasgow Times:

Youth activists Blair Anderson and Joe Meighan are calling for the installation of a universal basic income, extension of SAAS loan payments, or a relaxation of Universal Credit criteria to allow students to apply.

Blair, 21-year-old Law student at Glasgow University, told The Glasgow Times: "Young people and students are being left out of the response to COVID-19. Unlike landlords and big businesses, we're being left behind without support.

"Students have already received their last payment from SAAS until September, but we can't apply for Universal Credit and it's almost impossible to find a job.

Blair added: "If they can find the money to support landlords and shareholders, why can't they find the money to support students and properly fund our universities and colleges?"

The question of student funding was raised at FMQ's by Bob Doris, SNP MSP for Maryhill and Springburn, last week.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government had released emergency funds to support students throughout summer, but the distribution of the funds was left to Universtiy discretion.

Ms. Sturgeon said: "Bob Doris has raised a really important issue.

"The emergency funds that have been made available to universities and colleges can be used to support students during the summer up to the end of July, in recognition of reduced employment options.

"Universities and colleges will receive a further instalment of higher education funds in August; it will be a matter for each university and college to determine the amount that can be awarded, but the previous maximum limits have been removed. We will also continue to work closely with the National Union of Students and the sector on the support arrangements that are required in the future.

She added: “On the point about whether the universal credit rules can be relaxed, that is a reserved matter but it is a point that we would support. Generally, we remain committed to ensuring that students are adequately supported during what is a very challenging time for them—as indeed it is for everybody.”

Glasgow Times:

Although there are funds promised to Scottish universities by the Government, Joe, a 26-year-old Glasgow University student from Firhill, says for all students to avail of these funds would be 'inappropriate'. Instead, he argues students should be allowed access to income over the summer months rather than emergency or discretionary funds.

Joe said: "It's important students have some kind of access to an income over summer, not just access to emergency or discretionary funds, but access to something akin to universal credit or a universal basic income.

"I'm not sure if using the Universities' hardship funds to disseminate funds to students is appropriate. SAAS is a government agency perfectly positioned to administer what could be as simple as carrying on SAAS payments for three additional months as a one off, even possibly at a reduced rate, in order to provide some kind of financial stability.

"Universities are going to need huge amounts of support financially during and after this crisis and to add the extra onerous procedure of also administering support to students financially during the summer months I would think is a mistake.

"I would like to see the government and SAAS come together to provide support, independent of the institutions, direct to students."

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Bob Doris MSP and Patrick Grady MP are now writing to the UK Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to ask for a relaxation of Universal Credit criteria.

Bob Doris MSP told The Glasgow Times: "For many students, summer employment is a basic necessity to get by. Such opportunities have pretty much disappeared due to the Covid-19 crisis.

"It is therefore right to look again at student support more generally including allowing students access to Universal Credit and the benefits system over the coming summer months.

"We intend making powerful representations to the UK Government on that basis."

Glasgow Times:

Patrick Grady MP added: “Bob and I will be writing to the UK Secretary of State for Work and Pensions next week, calling for students to be able to apply for Universal Credit if they are unable to find work during the summer months.

"The SNP has also repeatedly called for the introduction of a Universal Basic Income, or other form of minimum income guarantee, to support everyone in society through the coronavirus crisis and stop people, especially those in vulnerable and low-income groups such as students, from falling through the cracks.”

NUS Scotland President Liam McCabe said:

“Coronavirus has caused untold disruption to students up and down the country, to their studies, their finances and their everyday lives.

“As the summer approaches we are sitting on a ticking time bomb of student deprivation.

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"Many students have already lost crucial part-time income with no guarantee that such wok will be available again soon; institutional hardship funds are under significant strain; the end of SAAS payments is just around the corner, and the vast majority of full-time students are not eligible for Universal Credit.

"The situation is dire, and we must not end up in a position where students are driven out of education and into poverty.

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s release of hardship funding for Scotland’s students, and were pleased to note they have committed to further funding later in the summer.

"We need to see a concerted effort from governments across the UK, and our educational institutions, to ensure that no student goes without the support they need.”