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Assembly Written Question 14764/17-22



Question: To ask the Minister for the Economy, pursuant to AQW 14138/17-22, for her assessment of the risks that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected job opportunities for part-time students, and thus created additional financial pressures.

Answer: Since the lockdown in March 2020 the economic impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented, with the burden on young people (aged 16-24), of which students make up a significant percentage, particularly high due to the closure of sectors in which this group is significantly represented.

Evidence of this can be seen in the latest Labour Force Survey estimates, which show that the claimant count for this age group in January 2021 remains almost double the number recorded in March 2020. In addition, the latest unemployment rate (October to December 2020) among young people has also doubled to just over 12%, while the employment rate has decreased by just under 13 percentage points over the year, significantly more than any other age group over the same period.

While part-time Higher Education students are not eligible for the Covid Disruption Payment, they are eligible for DfE-funded hardship funds administered by the Universities and Further Education Colleges. Should any part-time students find themselves in financial difficulties, I would encourage them to apply for these funds through their higher education institution.

In addition to this, any Northern Ireland students, including those studying part-time, who are experiencing financial hardship should also ensure that they have applied online at www.studentfinanceni.co.uk for all the financial assistance to which they may be entitled.

My Department has worked with the FE colleges to increase the flexibility of their policies in relation to student support, to make them more accessible. This includes free school meals and holiday payments, increasing the Dependant Student rate, which provides eligible FE students with an additional £15 per week; and making part-time and repeat students eligible to apply to Hardship Funds.

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