Cost of Living Hub

Our June 2023 Cost of Living Update

Having completed the second round of our Cost of Living survey, our Research team have compiled a report on the findings and made a list of recommendations to be considered going forward throughout this and the Academic year.

Support relating to food:

A clear finding from our research is that a large percentage of students are struggling with the price of food and drink, and that students want us to work with supermarkets to offer discounts on groceries. Whilst we may not be able to offer this, we recommend that students browse the Food and Drink section of our Cost of Living Hub to see what support is currently available. 

It’s been recommended that we lobby the University to extend £1 Wednesdays throughout the next Academic year. We’re going to ask the University whether this is a possibility, and in the meantime Hallam Central (Owen Level 6) and The Granary (Heart of the Campus) continue to offer medium hot food boxes for £2 Monday to Friday. We’re also working with the University on our Community Fridge project which will be launching in October, with the aim of redistributing surplus food to students for free. 

Students have requested hot water facilities and microwaves in all University buildings on campus. We’re currently creating a map of all the microwaves and hot water points across City and Collegiate Campus, including Owen, Cantor and Heart of the Campus. You can also access microwaves, hot water and free tea and coffee in Hideout at the SU.

Support relating to housing: 

It’s been recommended that we create a holistic and integrated city-wide and multi-university partnership approach to housing which considers affordability and diversity of students’ needs. We’re working with the Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield University, Sheffield SU and Sheffield City Council to deliver the Snug housing scheme and expand its desirability for both landlords and students. This will involve year-round comms and outreach to increase awareness and promote its benefits. 

Students have also requested that the Hallam Hardship fund should include increases to bills to help students with the rising costs of bills, which are themselves exceptional. Over the past year the University have increased their cost of living support including increases to the hardship fund and specifically two rounds of the Energy Costs Grant, giving students access to one-off payments to help with the cost of energy in their home. Whilst applications to the Energy Costs Grant closed in May, the University is still welcoming applications to the Hallam Hardship fund. Our next steps at the SU are to investigate further what more tailored financial support for students to help cover increases in household bills might look like, and meet with the University to discuss how to best support students in need. 

Support related to travel: 

Students told us they want cheaper travel, including the extension of the Zoom travel pass, which allows under 22s to travel on buses across South Yorkshire for 80p, to include students over 22.  We recognise this is especially an issue for our mature and commuter students, with the current £1.20 general student bus fares in Sheffield on bus fares not being sufficient for those commuting from outside the City. We also recognise that the current £2 cap on single bus and tram tickets has the potential to become unaffordable for students who regularly commute by public transport. We’re currently working with the University of Sheffield’s SU on a joint cost of living plan which includes lobbying local MPs, Councilors and the South Yorkshire Mayor on transport costs. 

It is also recommended that the University raises mileage reimbursement for Health, Wellbeing and Life Sciences students on placement from the current 28p per mile to 59p for the first 3500 miles and 24p per mile thereafter, in line with NHS standards. We’ll be lobbying the University to make this change.

Support related to work: 

Our Cost of Living research report recommends that all SHU and SHSU job descriptions need to include the minimum number of hours and the hourly rate up front, with all student jobs being paid at National Living Wage, regardless of applicant age. We can confirm that whilst student staff roles at the SU are paid slightly differently for those under 22 and over 22, the difference is between the ‘living wage’ and the ‘real living wage’, meaning that all student staff are paid at least the living wage. All current student staff opportunities at the University are also paid at National Living Wage or above. It’s also suggested that jobs promoted on Handshake should include a filter for part-time roles by the number of hours. In the coming weeks we’ll be reaching out to Handshake to see whether this is a viable option. 

The report recommends that SHU and SHSU should evaluate where more part-time work can be offered to students, which we plan to evaluate internally as well as putting to the University. It is also suggested that as international students can only work up to 20 hours a week, part-time roles offered by both SHU and SHSU should not exceed this to allow both home and international students to apply equally. Similarly, it is suggested that the 20 hour work cap for international students should be reviewed. At the SU, student wellbeing is at the heart of everything we do, and we recommend that students work a maximum of 15 hours a week alongside their studies. This is to ensure that our students are able to achieve the best possible results in their studies whilst also looking after their wellbeing. Based on this, we don’t currently feel it would be appropriate to investigate lobbying to raise the 20 hour cap. Instead we’ll be continuing to look at how we can best support students cope with the ongoing cost of living crisis through the initiatives we’ve been working on throughout the year.  

Finally, we’re looking into the Good Student Employment Charter and will be contacting the SHU Careers and Employability team in due course on the potential to adopt the pledges within it. 

Support related to socialising: 

Our Cost of Living research report sees students wanting the SU to create robust business partnerships to offer discounted events and activities for SHU students. This is something that our Student Communities team have been working on for a while, forging working relationships with local businesses including venues, shops and activity providers. In doing so, we’ve been able to offer more affordable experiences for students across a range of different opportunities. You can find out more about what we can offer for different budgets on the Socialising page of our Cost of Living Hub, including the Activities Inclusion Fund, launched earlier this year to help students participate in extracurricular activities such as Give it a Go opportunities, SU events and Society activity. We’re always open to ideas from students on how you’d like our partnerships to be extended and suggestions for who we should work with in the future. 

It’s been recommended that the SU revisits the use of the Hubs for events and more specifically looks into offering drop-in events for student groups where free tea, coffee and food is available. Earlier in the year we opened the Warm Space in Hideout at the Hubs, offering students a relaxed and inviting space to unwind, study and socialise, with facilities to charge your phones, tablets and laptops as well as free tea, coffee and microwaves to heat your food. Based on the recommendation, our next step is to look into how we can expand this offering out into spaces across campus for drop-in events for different student groups, for example mature student networking, LGBTQ+ lunches and international student get togethers. Ideally we’ll be able to provide some form of free food and drink at these events, and will look to collaborate with both engaged student groups and those who are yet to engage with SU activities. 

Support related to healthcare: 

It is clear from the Cost of Living research report that the ongoing and rising cost of healthcare is a significant issue affecting Hallam students, with a concerning number of students putting off non-urgent health care because they can’t afford it. It’s clear that this is ultimately a national issue and not sadly something we’re not going to be able to change overnight. What our focus will be now is ensuring that our students have all the information possible to make the best decisions for them, which we understand may be a difficult balance of affordability and urgency of care. We’ll be updating the Health and Wellbeing page of our Cost of Living Hub in the coming days to include specific information on dental care, which is perhaps the most challenging both in terms of availability and affordability. 

It’s recommended that the SU should work with local community healthcare providers to offer discounts to students, specifically on dental treatments and eyecare. Over the Summer we’ll be reaching out to providers to see where offers student discounts, as well as inviting those that don’t to explore the option of doing so. In the interest of transparency, we believe that whilst eyecare providers may be in a position to do so, NHS dentists are less likely, but this will form part of an ongoing conversation with both providers and the University around how students can access the healthcare they need at an affordable price. 

Read our Executive Summary

Read the Full Report

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