Students in Lockdown

Students in Lockdown

Coronavirus has had huge impacts right across our country, and in every corner of our society. 

The Young Liberals are the youth and student wing of the Liberal Democrats. And we're outraged at how students have been treated during this crisis. 

At best, we've been forgotten. At worst, we've been exploited.

 

At the start of the academic year, students were told we had to go back to our campuses, to attend in-person teaching. We paid our extortionate rents for tiny box bedrooms. In some cases, we had to pay upfront.

We travelled across the country, many of us on public transport, putting our health at risk. We arrived in our university towns and cities. First years were most likely stepping foot there for the first time - many of their open days and visits in the summer had been cancelled.

Then many universities stopped in person teaching.

We were (and still are!) paying £9,250 for what is essentially an online course. Sharing rubbish - but still expensive - WiFi with housemates and flatmates to attend virtual seminars and watch pre-recorded lectures.

Living at university is expensive. It's well documented that maintenance loans don't cover the cost of living. Last year, 74% of students relied on a part-time job. But the majority of these were in retail and hospitality and so students have been laid off or just have no work available. 

Why, then, wouldn't we go home? Simple. Because the Government discouraged it, and we were already trapped in year-long rental agreements. We were told there wouldn't be another full lockdown, so we could go home in future if we wanted to - there was no rush. And, depending on where in the country your home and university were, local lockdowns were already kicking in.

Well obviously, as I write, we're now in a second lockdown. 

In the week preceding this lockdown, the majority of the public were still able to travel. To make sure they were in safe surroundings before having to stay inside for four weeks.

No such luck for students. The Universities Minister wrote to us, telling us we must stay in our university accommodation.

It's now illegal for students to travel home, except in some extreme cases. We're trapped in our university rooms, maybe hundreds of miles from home.

Isolated, except from our flatmates - who if you're in halls, could be complete strangers.

We're reading in papers that there may be plans to stop us even seeing our families at Christmas. Students of other faiths are already missing spending major religious holidays with their families. We're dealing with all this uncertainty and the anxiety it brings.

And we're paying huge amounts of money for uni accommodation we never actually needed to come back to.

The Government has no interest in the well-being of students. Throughout this crisis they've just treated us as the personal piggy banks of private landlords.

There's already a mental health crisis in UK universities. Uni mental health services are overwhelmed and underfunded. Substance abuse and addiction are rife but go undetected, blamed on the 'student lifestyle'. 1 in every 5 university students has an existing mental health condition.

So now we're stuck in lockdown.

Maybe in sub-standard living conditions. Maybe with strangers. Maybe with no access to uni support. Maybe with noone at all.

Over these four weeks of isolation, many students will reach their limit. Already, at least one student has died every week since the beginning of the academic year.

The father of one student suicide victim tweeted that “if you lockdown young people because of Covid-19 with little support, then you should expect that they suffer severe anxiety”.

The Young Liberals have long been calling for better mental health support for students and young people.

Unfortunately over the course of this lockdown, that support is likely to be more important than ever.

You can read more about our campaign on youth and student mental health here.

The Government must answer for the disgraceful way they've treated students during this crisis. The Young Liberals are working with the Liberal Democrats to make sure we get the answers and the justice students need and deserve.

Students must come together, support eachother, and fight for better mental health services. 


Visit our website to find out how to stay in the loop with the Young Liberals and our campaigns.

If you need support throughout this period, please know that you are not alone. The Samaritans are often thought to be a last resort - in reality, they're there to talk to no matter how big or small the problem you're facing. They even have an online chat feature, if you'd rather not call them. You can visit their website at https://www.samaritans.org/

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