NUS MEMBERSHIP UPDATE ON CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) 24 March 2020
Our number one priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of the students and apprentices we represent, so we have been working closely with institutions, trade unions, national sector bodies like Universities UK and the Association of Colleges, the Student Loans Company, and the government to inform our response to Coronavirus (Covid-19).
Here’s an update of what we are doing on your behalf to ensure your interests are represented as we tackle this pandemic:
- We've released a statement demanding that the government acts to reassure students and remove housing anxieties
- We've responded to yesterday's national lockdown announcement by the government
- A number of students’ associations are facing issues with students who want to leave their accommodation, but are finding that providers who won’t let them out of their contracts. This can mean that accommodation owners, either institutional or privately-owned, are insisting students continue to pay rent, or even find a replacement renter. We want to know how widespread these issues are, and which providers are involved. If you’ve been dealing with these problems, please get in touch
- NUS Scotland Conference took place last week, and since it was our first ever online conference the deadlines for voting on policies and members of the Scottish Steering Committee have been extended until this week. If you are a conference delegate, check your inbox for links to vote on both before the deadline at 12 noon on Friday 27 March. There’s more info here
- We’ve now arranged weekly Skype calls open to all Scottish college and university officers (including non-affiliates), so we can share what’s happening on the ground. These will take place on Tuesdays at 2pm – get in touch for joining instructions. We’ll also be representing students at weekly meetings with the Scottish Government, and sector colleagues in staff trade unions, Colleges Scotland and Universities Scotland.
- NUS-USI has been working with Members of the Legislative Assembly to get clarity on the Coronavirus wage retention scheme and if/how it will cover zero hours contracts
- We have also been appealing for information on whether students who have lost work will be able to apply for unemployment benefit, and have been working with Unite hospitality on student workers rights
- We have also written to private purpose-built student accommodation providers urging them to allow students to terminate their leases early. We are also working to ensure student housing issues are reflected in the Emergency housing legislation currently being drafted by the Department for Communities
- NUS Wales President Rob Simkins hosted the first All Wales Officers Weekly Covid-19 meeting yesterday. The meeting was attended by sabbatical officers and staff from students’ unions across Wales, including non-affiliate institutions. We’ll be putting your questions and concerns to stakeholders including the Welsh Government and sector bodies, in weekly meetings. For more information on the next officers meeting email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rob is writing to the Welsh Government’s housing minister to see what additional support can be given to renters, after concerns were raised that the UK Government’s Coronavirus Bill doesn’t offer the protections against eviction that were promised
- We've had a discussion with the National Training Federation Wales on how the Welsh Government and training providers are working to ensure apprentices maintain access to education and can complete their programmes during the coronavirus outbreak.
- Thanks to everyone who joined our first weekly Skype session for student officers today. Some of the many discussion points included: concerns over student mental health; tackling private rents; more support for part-time workers and international students' visas; and the practicalities of isolating in halls. Key wins secured by SUs were also discussed, include Unite and Liberty Living accommodation's announcement that their tenants will be able to access a no-penalty exit from their rent obligations. You can join next week's discussion via this link
- We’ve published two letter templates to enable students’ unions to write to MPs asking for financial protection during the pandemic. The letter templates can be adapted and sent to your MP whether you have an outstanding retrospective VAT payment, or not
- The Covid-19 Student Survey is in preparation and we are aiming to launch this towards the end of this week
- The Talent team is in the process of transitioning the immediate Learning Academy courses into dynamic online formats so we can continue to enable an excellent learning environment. More on this soon.
- The online version of National Conference will take place Tuesday 31 March (Elections) and Wednesday 1 April (Conference Business).