Student forced to turn to food bank by loan delay

By Harry Farley
BBC Radio 4 Today

Image source, Getty Images

"I can't go out, I can't socialise, I can't join a club or have hobbies."

Dan, a student at Bristol University, has had to turn to a food bank after a student loan administration error left him without money.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme his parents' income falls just above the cut-off for extra support and he feels "let down".

University of Bristol vice-chancellor, Prof Hugh Brady, said the level of funding for students was "a big issue".

Dan, who asked the BBC not to use his real name, said a mistake between Student Finance England, which administers the loans, and the university meant his payment was delayed, leaving him without money for two weeks.

"During this time I can't give up on all expenditures. I still have to eat," he said, adding he knew he was not alone and the same issue had affected other students.

"Many students here can rely upon parents for financial assistances but I am not presented with that option - it is not possible for us."

He said he fears he will have to return to the food bank before the end of the year.

"I cannot leave the house really. I can't justify the cost of anything. I can't go out, I can't socialise, I can't join a club or have hobbies. I can't do that. I have to spend all of my money on food," he said.

"It is the cost of being alive, not even the cost of living."

Loans are available to students in England and Wales to cover both their tuition fees and living costs.

Students living away from home outside London can receive up to £8,944 this academic year but the amount they receive is determined largely by their family's household income.

Prof Brady told Today: "Cost of living continues to go up. Unfortunately rent continues to go up.

"Certainly we're hearing from the various parties that that is on their radar and that is to be welcomed."

The Student Loans Company, of which Student Finance England is a part, said it aimed to process loan applications as quickly as possible.

"A student's entitlement is dependent upon a number of factors and is determined by information and evidence supplied to us by the student and their parents.

"It is only possible to confirm eligibility and make payment for fees and maintenance loans once we have received confirmation of attendance from the university," a spokesman said.

"Any student who believes they are in financial hardship should contact the relevant department of their university or college to find out about any hardship funds that might be available to them."

'Rising costs'

Delays to student finance are all too common and can lead to hardship, according to Karen Qureshi, who runs food banks at Birmingham City University.

"It is an issue. Sometimes student finance can be delayed or students can be having to take on extra work on zero-hours contracts to make ends meet," she told Today.

"It is important we make it viable for students to stay at university.

"I think that sometimes that what maintenance grants can cover are things like accommodation.

"Accommodation is often something that has to come out in a lump sum at the beginning of each term.

"Of course, that is a hard cost that has to be borne by the student whereas things like food and maintaining a phone contract are just as essential for students.

"I think they [political parties] have got to think about the rising costs for students.

"Accommodation is expensive, food is expensive, even if you are socialising within the student union there are other costs.

"It is difficult to keep things going term in, term out and make things meet at the end particularly with food I would say."