Thank you to all those who contacted me about cost of living support for students.
High energy bills and living costs are putting pressure on student budgets, and I am worried that some might not be able to complete their course. It was clear months ago that we were approaching a difficult winter, but I do not believe Government Ministers have come up with the solutions we need to deal with the rising costs of living.
Students are struggling as prices for accommodation, food and transport continue to rise. Inflation has increased to more than 10% but the maximum loan for living costs only rose by 2.3% this year. According to Save the Students, they are now facing an average funding gap of £439 per month.
The Government says “students who are worried about making ends meet should speak to their university about the support they can access”. However, I am concerned that universities are having to do more and more to help students, with little support from the Government. The Government is expected to make an announcement this autumn on loans and grants for the 2023/24 academic year. I assure you I will follow developments closely.
Apprenticeships are, in my view, just as crucial as universities to growing our economy and building the skills we need. They offer young people a way to ‘earn while they learn’ and they support employers to develop the skills of their workforce and fill skills gaps.
It is only right that working people receive a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, but I am concerned young adult workers are not getting a decent pay deal. Their bills are not any cheaper, but they have to make ends meet with less which is unfair in my view.
More widely, I want to see a genuine national living wage for workers across the country. I am therefore supporting calls for changes to the remit of the Low Pay Commission (LPC), which advises the Government on the minimum wage to ensure it reflects the need for people’s pay to at least cover the cost of living. The LPC is expected to make recommendations on rates for the 2023/24 financial year this autumn which I await with interest.