Cost of living crisis
Matthew Boulton, Managing Director of Get My Deposit Back shares his thoughts on the impact of the cost of living crisis on students, and the Government support package.
April is the start of a true cost of living crisis when energy bills alone rise by an average of £693/year, with further rises expected in October. Students are particularly affected by this crisis as they have lower incomes, limited experience of renting and often live in poorly maintained, draughty properties. SOS-UK’s research from 2014, 2017 and 2022 shows that students often face problems with poor quality, cold homes that are difficult to heat.
“It’s worse than I expected, but to be honest most people I know just end up living with it and don't talk to someone about it after a while.” - Student
The Government responded in February with a package of partial support for UK households. Yet one measure is highly unpopular and will even hurt student finances for many rather than help them. Each student household who pays their own energy bill will receive £200 in October to share (so in a typical 4-bed property, each student receives £50). Repayments at £40/year then start in April 2023. When students graduate, they will often live by themselves or in a smaller group. As repayments are also per household, those students who shared £200 amongst all housemates will each pay back up to £40/year for five years. In our 4-bed example, £50 given and up to £200 taken back each – a truly rotten deal.
And it gets worse. By October, those not yet at University, living at home, in university-owned accommodation, or whose landlord otherwise pay their energy bill, won’t even receive the £200/household - yet will still be forced to repay up to £40/year. These students will be forced to pay for nothing at a time when energy bills may still be at record highs.
This scheme is grossly unfair, and the repayment structure makes it deeply unpopular with voters of all ages. But there is still time for the Government to fix this. Our Students Ripped Off campaign calls on the Government to act now and turn October’s unpopular loan into a £200 non-repayable grant to help with soaring energy bills. Further action is also needed by the Government. This is a golden opportunity to not only avoid widespread student fuel poverty, but deliver its net-zero goals, by providing meaningful energy efficiency measures to the UK’s poorly maintained student housing stock. This is a completely avoidable crisis and the Government needs to take decisive action.
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