Deputy News Editor
The £5m emergency financial support is to help students struggling with the Covid-19 lockdown.
A £5m package of emergency financial support is being made available for Scottish students who are facing hardship during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.
This £5m package also includes an additional £2.2m Scotland's Higher Education (HE) Discretionary Fund to help Covid-19 related hardships, supplementing the £569,000 previously issued. The remainder of the £2m funding has been directed by the Scottish Funding Council from Further Education student support budgets to be used immediately.
The emergency package also includes £100,000 available for supporting 1,000 students who study with private providers, which will be administered by Student Award Agency Scotland (SAAS) and will be paid directly to affected students.
There will be a three month suspension period by SAAS of all new debt recovery actions regarding grants and bursaries for students whose circumstances may have changed and may have to return overpayments, which could benefit up to 600 students. SAAS will also work with students experiencing difficulties regarding overpayments and agree to a suitable option for both parties, with suspension being an available option while others may wish to carry on with a reduced recovery plan.
Additionally, there will be an extension of the Care-Experienced Accommodation Grant from early April which will provide eligible students to access support of a weekly non-repayable grant up to £105, eight weeks earlier than normal, which will benefit 200 students, set to cost £200,000.
Richard Lochhead, Scotland's Minister for Further and Higher Education said: "We are ensuring students studying in Scotland should have access to emergency support should they be facing financial hardship as a result of Covid-19 or the social distancing and isolation measures that have been introduced.
"All bursaries, grants and loans are continuing to be paid as planned but the current unprecedented situation has resulted in increased hardship. That is why we are making extra funding immediately available for students most in need, to help alleviate concerns around accommodation costs, mental health issues, general living costs and wellbeing.
"Institutions will be provided with specific guidance on the discretionary funding related to Covid-19, to explain all relevant details while students can access the latest information on Covid-19 on the Student Information Scotland website."
Liam McCabe, president of NUS Scotland, said: "Students are facing untold disruption to their studies, work and lives, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with significant implications for their financial security.
"Given the financial pressure students are under, we welcome today’s announcement, which we hope will relieve some of the hardship faced by Scotland’s most vulnerable students. It’s crucial that institutions make these funds easy to access, and ensure that they are open to all students who need them."We must keep track of student demand for hardship funding during this pandemic to ensure that no student in need of support ever goes without."
The Scottish Government said students will be able to apply for hardship payments by applying directly to their higher education institution.