Friday 30-10-2015 - 09:00
NUS’ Zone Conferences kicked off on Tuesday 27 October with students and staff from the movement arriving in Bradford for a week of debates, discussions and democratic elections which will steer and shape the policy of NUS’ five Zones over the coming year.
The annual gathering - the second largest democratic event in the UK after our own National Conference - is being hosted in the city of Bradford for first time, with the focus turning to our Welfare Zone Conference yesterday and today.
Zone Conferences are a crucial part of the policy formation process and are an important milestone on the road to National Conference. Each Zone is based around a ‘key theme’ allowing a space for students’ unions to really shape NUS’ responses to the challenges each zone faces.
Here are five things we learnt during Welfare Zone Conference…
1. We all love the NHS…
But it’s under attack, through lack of funding and investment and privatisation. Those who are on NHS funded courses like nurses, midwives and healthcare students are facing cuts to their grants and low quality placements. We need to work with our NHS students on campus as well as joining up with local Save Our NHS groups to get our voices heard.
2. We need more housing
After a packed out session on Taking Control of the Housing Crisis, there was a shared agreement that we need more housing, for everyone, and that it needs to be affordable. We need to collect evidence of the living conditions experienced by students and make the case impossible to ignore.
3. We are stronger when we work together…
And stronger yet when we work across communities, with other organisations and campaigners also affected by austerity. Whether its’ local charities, housing campaigns or trades unions we can all unify behind common causes to create change.
4. Apprentices need a pay-rise
At the moment, apprentices are paid £3.30 an hour - which is well under the minimum wage. Paying such a low wage is creating problems for apprentices accessing appropriate housing, paying their prescription charges, and covering their travel costs.
5. Cuts to mental health services are dangerous
We talked a lot about the wider agenda of cuts in the NHS is impacting on campuses and resulting in less provision of good-quality and accessible support services. In further education in particular, students reported their struggle to fight cuts to services which help support students to stay in education and stay healthy.
Our Welfare and Society and Citizenship Zone Conferences concluded our week residency in Bradford today with the elections for both of their respective Zone Committees.
Not in Bradford for Zone Conference? Relive the action on social media using the hashtag #NUSzones15.