More needs to be done. Student Minds call for support for students through the cost of living crisis.
At Student Minds, we are calling on policymakers to act urgently to support students through the ongoing cost of living crisis. We have approached a range of MPs in government and the opposition; so far, the lack of response from elected officials has been completely inadequate. Students have been forgotten about amongst the political instability, but they are facing the financial and mental health impacts of the crisis right now, and they have been for months. We are joining voices from across the sector to demand better.
There is strong evidence to demonstrate that in the United Kingdom, students who experience financial difficulties are more likely to experience poor mental health, such as depression, anxiety, and substance misuse (1). Recent research shows that 67% of students surveyed have suffered with mental health issues due to their financial situation (2). In addition, students having financial difficulties, on average, have worse academic outcomes, which is a source of further distress and perpetuates poor mental wellbeing. This all comes in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which already posed significant financial challenges for students and their families. Beyond the immediate financial harm of the cost-of-living crisis, we are deeply worried that these conditions will create worse mental health outcomes among our student population in the longer term.
Students have felt the squeeze of the cost-of-living crisis, but most of the help arranged by previous governments is not available to them. The prices of staple foods, such as bread and pasta, have risen by sixty-percent and forty-percent respectively in the last twelve months (3), while energy bills are set to increase by thousands of pounds, again, in April. Policy interventions such as council tax rebates, and the reversal of the national insurance levy, will make no difference to full-time students, who are already exempt from paying Council Tax, and typically won’t earn enough to make National Insurance contributions. Students have shared with us how expensive it is becoming for them just to participate in their studies, such as for medical students who have to pay hospital parking charges. Despite all this, students still have to buy groceries and pay their rent and energy bills, and are doing so without the financial support available to other segments of the population.
We are asking the government to immediately intervene to develop targeted financial help for students to address the spiralling cost of living. Particularly, we recommend that the government:
Our recommendations echo those already made by key higher education sector bodies such as Universities UK and the National Union of Students. We have been disappointed by the minimal engagement we have received from politicians, despite reaching out to stress the urgency of the situation. Student mental health cannot wait. We need the government, opposition, and every public representative to take student mental health seriously, which means taking swift action to address the cost-of-living crisis.
Universities must also play a part. We have been encouraged to see good practice at various universities and SUs, such as cheap hot meal schemes and textbook swap events. However, we think more can be done. While we cannot fully tackle this issue without government intervention, higher education providers can take these measures to support students through the cost of living crisis:
This is not just a question of student finances, but student mental health. In the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, students were already in a compromised position, having dealt with years of economic hardship, political instability, and missed opportunities. They deserve better, and we need your help to make this happen, to protect student mental health now, and in the future.
Help us advocate for better student mental health in the cost-of-living crisis:
If you are a student affected by the issues raised, or are struggling with your mental health, Student Space is here to help. Whether it’s your mental health, your studies, money, housing or relationships, we’re here to support you.