Students in Northern Ireland to receive £500 Covid disruption payment - how to claim it
Thousands of students in Northern Ireland are to get a one-off £500 payment from the government in a bid to help those struggling with the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis. Here's what you need to know and how to claim.
The announcement came this week from Northern Ireland's economy minister, Diane Dodds, who revealed a total support package yesterday worth over £37 million to help students across the country. Of this amount, £22 million will go towards giving every full-time university student in Northern Ireland a one-off 'covid disruption payment' of £500.
This is intended to help students with difficulties including loss of income from part-time work, access to remote learning, as well as to help fund rent arrangements. The wider support package also contains additional funds that will be given to universities to help students facing financial hardship and digital poverty, as well as for student unions to boost mental health support during this stressful period.
All full-time students studying in Northern Ireland will get the payment
If you're a student from the UK or EU, currently enrolled on a full-time higher education course anywhere in Northern Ireland, you're eligible to receive the £500 payment. This includes both undergraduate and postgraduate students – the Department for the Economy estimates that around 40,000 students will be entitled to the payment. Eligibility is not dependent on whether a student is in receipt of a student loan.
If you're a part-time student or you're a full-time student and still struggling even after the £500 payment and you're facing financial hardship, extra funds have been made available to universities to allocate on a case-by-case basis, so be sure to contact your university and ask about its hardship fund to see if you can receive financial support.
If you're a student from Northern Ireland studying in England, Scotland or Wales, unfortunately you won't be eligible for the one-off £500 payment. However, help is still available – you can find more information below.
Payments will be made by your university
Covid disruption payments will be paid to eligible students by the end of March through the university they attend. If you qualify you shouldn't need to formally apply, but your institution may need to validate details with you in advance of payment. If you're unsure, check with your university.
Students in England, Scotland and Wales won't get payments - but there is other help available
Further education is a devolved issue and there are currently no plans to give discretionary payments to students elsewhere across the rest of the UK, but other help is still available.
The government has made a £70 million hardship fund available to help students studying in England who are most in need of support during the coronavirus crisis. Departments for education in Scotland and Wales have also both announced their own hardship funds of £30 million and £40 million respectively. These funds are there to help with costs such as accommodation, loss of employment, and access to online learning, such as WiFi or laptop costs.
You can apply for this help by contacting your university and asking about its hardship fund. Universities can make payments at their own discretion, so the help you can get may differ based on your university.
There's no guarantee of a student rent refund but it's worth asking
If you're paying for accommodation and you can't use it, you may be able to get a rent refund. Unite and Student Roost have confirmed, after pressure from students, that they will offer partial rent refunds to students unable to return to university due to current lockdown measures.
Some university accommodation providers are also offering refunds and discounts. We've broken down what you need to know in our Can students claim a rent refund news story, although bear in mind some of the provider-by-provider info may have since changed.