Havering students disadvantaged in student grant scrap row
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A vote to scrap student maintenance grants for those starting in September 2016 and beyond was controversially passed in Westminster last week.
The decision will mainly effect poorer students like those in Havering from single-parent families or those on the low wages or unemployed, meaning many may be unable to afford university.
A spokeswoman for Havering Youth Council said some students already struggle having to work and study to supplement their finances.
She said: “There is a risk the higher education system could go backwards in terms of dividing society and only those financially privileged can afford to attend university rather than through their ability and aspirations.”
The decision to change the grant into a loan was first proposed by the government in July 2015 in a bid to make budget cuts.
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Anger has spread among the National Union of Students and opposing party because the government pushed through the plans by “delegated authority” and has not released documents which would show the impact of abolishing the grant on those most affected.
“Youth council think it should have gone a vote,” added the spokeswoman. “Every young person should have should have their voice heard.
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“The whole idea of democracy is undermined without a vote.”
Calling the grants a “lifeline”, Ivana Bartoletti, Labour GLA candidate for Havering and Redbridge called the move an “assault on aspiration and opportunity”.
“I will do all I can to stand up for families in Havering and Redbridge and reverse this cut,” she said.
“University should be available to all, irrespective of background.
“Instead of pulling up the drawbridge for young people from less privileged backgrounds, the government should support both those who choose a vocational training and those who want to go to university.”
Cllr Meg Davis, cabinet member for children and learning, said the council’s aspiration was for every young person in Havering to be able to learn, develop, and pursue a career of their choice.
“It is vital that young people, particularly those who are from the least privileged backgrounds, are supported in reaching their educational goals,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Havering College said “fear of debt” was a “major deterrent” for students in deciding whether to progress onto degree level study.
“At Havering College we have our own higher education provision and we continue to develop new degrees in partnership with the Open University,” she said.
“This provision allows students to achieve a degree but study locally and live at home.”
Members of the youth council may contact universities to gain their opinions and take steps to gather the views of young people in the borough to decide on a course of action.