Government Cuts to Maintenance Grants
Yesterday I met with a number of student representatives to show my support for their opposition to the government’s student finance changes. The Tories have said they will be completely cutting the availability of maintenance grants to students, effective from September 2016.
These maintenance grants are in place to support students from the poorest backgrounds and more than half a million English students currently receive them. Under the current system, means-tested grants of up to £3,387 a year are available to students from families with incomes below £25,000. Under the government’s new plans, students will be entitled to between £5740 and £8,200 (depending on location), but all of this will be as a repayable loan and without a penny of a grant.
The government tried to take the decision without a debate or vote in the House of Commons. They chose instead to use a legislation committee, meaning only a handful of select MPs were able to vote on it. It was only when Labour chose to bring forward an opposition debate yesterday that the issue received the attention and profile it deserves on the floor of the House of Commons. We put forward a motion to annul the statutory instrument in which these changes are contained, only for it to be voted down by the Tories. Throughout this premeditated evasion of scrutiny, the government has shown its sheer disregard for compassion and transparency.
The message from this government is clear. They aren’t interested in how difficult or impoverished someone’s situation is. If you want to better the lives of yourself and your family through education and being the first in your family to go to university, you’re going to have to pay for it. So much for the party of aspiration.