Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister for Communities what rent support will be made available for students.
Minister for Communities: Since the outbreak of this pandemic my Department has put in place a number of provisions to assist households during this period, including private renters.
Some students may be eligible to receive Housing Benefit if they already receive certain benefits or have parental or caring responsibilities.
An increase in Local Housing Allowance rates from 1 April has provided additional financial support for private tenants including any students in receipt of Housing Benefit or the housing costs element of Universal Credit.
In addition, anyone who has lost their job and who signed on to Universal Credit can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to have their full rent paid for 13 weeks.
Discretionary Support is available to provide financial assistance in extreme, exceptional or crisis situations where there is significant risk to the health, safety or well-being of a person or a member of their immediate family. A person who is in full time third level education is normally not eligible for Discretionary Support. However, a student who is experiencing financial hardship as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic may be entitled to Discretionary Support including a grant for short term living expenses if they, or any member of their immediate family, are diagnosed with COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate in accordance with the latest public health guidance.
The main source of support for students facing hardship is the Department for Economy led Student Hardship Fund which is allocated to the local Higher Education Institutions (HEI) for distribution to students who can demonstrate genuine financial hardship. Each HEI is responsible for assessing student’s need and issuing support within the guidelines of the scheme. The Executive has recently announced a further £1.4m for Student Support (Hardship) funds.
In addition to this my Department have also worked with local student representatives to ensure that students facing hardship have access to food parcels.