Brighton Students’ Union (BSU) is calling upon private accommodation providers in Brighton, Hove and Eastbourne to ease the financial and overwhelming stress that students are currently facing during COVID-19.
Ramy Badrie, an international student currently working as Vice President Education for BSU is at the core of the Housing Campaign which is backed by Councillor Gill Williams (Chair of Housing Committee) and MPs Caroline Lucas, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Peter Kyle. Ramy says:
“We are lobbying private third-party providers, including purpose-built student accommodation, to help students wishing to terminate their contracts. We are encouraging providers to offer the option of a cost-free release to tenants and negotiate on the remainder of the rent. Thousands of students across the city have been impacted, anxiety is at an all-time high and we feel strongly that students shouldn’t be taking the hit during the current crisis.”
Many students decided to return to their family home before lockdown for various reasons, such as needing to support relatives, taking up caring responsibilities and wanting to self-isolate. Furthermore, students have lost their additional income, many of which were on zero-hour contracts or temporary seasonal work.
A student, who wishes to remain anonymous said “COVID-19 has pretty much upended my life. I had to return home to North America and have since then been trying to assist my family who are in a dire situation. I was stuck in a contract that my landlord refused to release me from until BSU got involved and advocated my case.”
Some, like Samantha (a student at Brighton and Sussex Medical School) have put themselves forward to volunteer on the frontline while continuing to study:
“I have been volunteering at my local hospital to help make a difference and will soon be aiding clinically in my local A&E with St John Ambulance. This is all alongside the pressure and disruption to studying medicine online and ensuring I have enough money to pay rent for the coming months. This campaign highlights the impact of COVID-19 on a group of people, especially those who are self-funding degrees or are experiencing mental health issues, worsened by isolation.”
BSU is not alone in their attempts to try and ease the financial stress that students are facing. Many Students’ Unions across the UK are calling for the Government to recognise their situations. NUS, the National Union of Students “is demanding that the government acts to reassure students and remove housing anxieties now.”
With over 100 private accommodation providers contacted and over 1,600 signatures accumulated on their change.org petition, BSU recently presented a deputation to the Housing Committee at Brighton & Hove City Council.
In support of their campaign, Sarah Hogg, the Director of Student Operations and Support said: “The University of Brighton recognises that these are financially challenging times for all, and we would support our Students’ Union in calling on local landlords and private student accommodation providers to release students from remaining rent liabilities, or offer rent reductions when they are no longer in residence, where this is possible.”
The Communications Manager at BSU commented: “Of course we understand that some of you are independent landlords and are impacted by the ongoing pandemic. However, I’m sure you can appreciate that as a Students’ Union, our priority and focus is always our students, who are facing disruption to their lives and study during this time.”
Brighton Students’ Union is committed to Making Student Life Better and for those who are still awaiting a resolution, we are as committed as ever to seeking one from accommodation providers.”
Listen to Ramy Badrie presenting at Brighton and Hove City Council’s Housing Committee 29th Apr 2020.