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National Student Money Week 2022

This week is National Student Money Week, and we're encouraging ourselves and others to think a little bit about our finances as a student, and reflect on some of the bizarre (and often regrettable!) things we've spent our student loans on in the past.

All this month we've been reaching out and asking you to get in touch to 'confess your money mess' and you haven't disappointed. You've submitted confessions funny, strange, peculiar and some which we're not even able to share! It's been a tough job to narrow down over 100 submissions to our top 10, but we've managed it... and one of you lucky lot is the winner of £100!

However, National Student Money Week is also a time to reflect on some of the more serious issues we face whilst at University. Financial difficulties can be a struggle to deal with at the best of times, but doing so whilst dealing with the pressures of part-time or full-time study can lead to situations where mental health and wellbeing can be seriously impacted. It's important to know that you are not alone, and there are people who want to listen and help.

"Spent ALL my student loan on rent because I only get the minimum despite being estranged"

At SHSU we recognise that not everyone is in the same boat as what the 'typical student' is portrayed as in the media. We're proud to have a community of mature students, commuter students, international students, disabled students, LGBTQ+ students, BAME students, and students from walks of life as varied as the colours of Park Hill flats. It can be incredibly frustrating to be in a situation that's more complex and potentially bring barriers for funding, but there are some things you can do to help maximise the financial support you receive whilst at Uni:

  • Our Student Advice Centre run a 'Benefits Check' service to help make sure you're getting any benefit you may be entitled to. You can get in touch with the Advice Centre to book an appointment.
  • For a plethora of reasons, it can be the case that students from underrepresented backgrounds may be subject to more financial hardship than others. A range of emergency funding is available, including the Hallam Hardship Fund for home students and International Emergency Fund for International students. Find out more about SHU Student Funding.

"Bought a £600 laptop when I could have applied for the remote learning fund"

There is probably nothing more annoying than spending money and then realising you didn't need to! The Access to Remote Learning Grant (ARL) was an initiative by the Uni to help students without access to proper IT or specialist equipment to engage in remote learning, offering grants of up to £475. The ARL fund itself was put in place to help with the transition from on-campus learning to remote/blended learning during the height of the Coronavirus Pandemic, and whilst the initiative is now closed, SHU offers lots of additional funding support which many students may be entitled to.

  • You can find out a little more about the various funding opportunities that may be available to you by taking a look at our recent piece on Student Funding.
  • To find out more in-depth information on what additional funding is available including guidelines and application details, visit SHU Student Funding or speak to a member of Hallam Help.

"Got scammed into an £80 subscription to grow my TikTok followers and there is no option to unsubscribe"

Scams and fraud are not new things, and sadly they're often used to exploit those of us who are actively seeking to further ourselves in one way or another, whether employment, education or maximising social media exposure. It's sometimes easy to have the 'that would never happen to me, I'm too careful' thought, but in reality scams are getting more sophisticated and, unfortunately, a lot of them are targeting, specifically students. Whilst the financial downfall of scams are apparent, what's sometimes less discussed is the effect it can have on the victim's mental wellbeing. Imagine in this circumstance, that the TikTok account and content is something you're really passionate about, or simply just something that helps brighten up your day when you're feeling a bit rubbish. Now imagine that the something you associate with positive emotions is turned against you to cost you a significant amount of money lost to scammers. There are likely to be feelings of disappointment, regret, and disconnect with something you've previously been passionate about, as well as potential fears around future finances, depending on the nature and extent of the scam. You can find support for various wellbeing concerns later in this article.

If you think you've been a victim of fraud or a scam, you should inform the Police as soon as possible.

Our top tips for avoiding falling victim to scams:

  1. Get a second opinion. If something seems a little off about something you're about to take part in or pay money for, ask someone you trust to have a look with you. They may notice something you haven't or may be familiar with a similar situation themselves.
  2. Don't make snap decisions. Take time away to consider a situation that has the potential to be not all that it seems. It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of something new that seems like a perfect opportunity, but taking a step back can give you time to clear your head and assess its legitimacy.
  3. Despite the cliché, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Whilst these tips are a starting point and useful to keep in mind, it can really help to familiarise yourself with common scams and emerging techniques fraudsters are using to trick people out of money. A few resources for increasing your awareness of scams:

  • The SHU Money Skills team have some fantastic resources available, aiming to help students recognise scams and protect themselves from them. They have links to trusted information from Action Fraud and also from UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs), focusing on those targeting International Students. The information on SHU Money Skills includes types of fraud which sometimes specifically target students including rental fraud, gaming and essay writing scams.
  • Blackbullion is an online service that offers a great range of resources to help improve your financial health. They're tailored specifically to students and provide short, interactive pieces of information that are easy to digest. Specifically, there is a 10 minute pathway on scam awareness, including types of scams, how to spot the signs and further information on reporting anything suspicious.
  • Most banks offer awareness sessions on common and emerging scams which are more likely to target your bank account itself. These are often tailored to your bank specifically, and there are often trained experts on hand to guide you through any queries or concerns you may have. Banks with these services include Natwest, Barclays, Halifax and Monzo.
  • Citizens Advice runs the Scams Awareness campaign in close collaboration with the Consumer Protection Partnership. Together they work to identify, prioritise and coordinate collective action to tackle detriment. Citizens Advice have lots of information about scams on their website, and also have a helpline you can call if you need further advice and support: 0808 223 1133.

"Got into a routine of staying up all night gambling When I was struggling with my mental health during lockdown. I wasted £5K of my life savings"

Struggling with mental health and an unhealthy relationship with gambling can often go hand in hand, and although gambling can be fun, it's important to be aware of your own limits and when to stop. Certainly throughout lockdown many of us have turned to unhealthy habits either as a way to pass the time, or as coping strategies to deal with uncertainty, isolation and loneliness. Whether it's drinking, gambling, smoking or something else, it's something many people relate to so it's also important to know that you're not on your own, and that you don't need to face difficult situations in isolation. In fact, a recent survey by YGAM (The Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust) found that 80% of students have gambled whilst at Uni, with 41% of those stating that it had had a negative impact on their university experience, and 35% using borrowed money including their student loan to do so. There are some fantastic resources out there that can help put aspects of gambling into perspective, along with providing support and advice where needed.

  • Togetherall is a safe, online community where people support each other anonymously to improve mental health and wellbeing. Online resources include community forums (including some dedicated to those experiencing Gambling problems), courses, and mindfulness exercises.
  • BeGambleAware are a national charity whose mission is to keep people safe from gambling harm (you may have seen them referenced in adverts for betting services online or on TV). They offer support and advice for people who want to be more in control of their gambling, are worried they might have a gambling problem, or want to help someone else who's gambling may be a concern. BeGambleAware can lead you through confidential and non-judgemental support options such as one-to-one, support groups and residential support. They also have an online live chat where you can anonymously check in with a trained professional.
  • YGAM (The Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust) is an award-winning charity with a social purpose to inform, educate and safeguard young people against gaming and gambling harm. YGAM are really good at signposting to further support and raising awareness of issues which may affect young people without realising. There is also a dedicated hub for students with lots of insightful information on gaming and gambling, and how they may impact mental, physical and financial health.
  • YGAM will be joining the Student Rights Team at the Atrium Project, which is taking place in the Atrium of the Owen Building on Thursday 3rd March, 11pm-3pm. There'll be several activities to get involved in, along with wellbeing tips and advice and opportunities to get involved with your SU.
  • Further information on support with gambling and gaming is also available on SHU's website.

"Spent most of my student loan on therapy"

During lockdown, it seemed that everyone became more and more aware of the need to look after our wellbeing, with the spotlight being very much focused on mental health. This was an incredible opportunity to change the way we view mental health and normalise the struggles we all face either occasionally or regularly. However, coming out of several lockdowns it's often felt like there's some pressure to go back to 'normal' and perhaps even an internal feeling that our mental health should automatically improve. When you step back and think about this objectively, that obviously isn't the case, and just because one set of circumstances changes (i.e. coming out of lockdown), it doesn't necessarily mean the way we feel will reflect positive steps in society, and individually, we can even feel left behind when we see our peers' wellbeing appear to be thriving.

We acknowledge that each person's circumstances are different, and there is no one-stop shop for overcoming challenges relating to wellbeing, mental health or trauma. It's important to know that there are many options out there to help you including traditional routes such as counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which you can access via referral from your NHS GP, and we recommend keeping them updated with your mental health, just as you would your physical health. Sadly we're all too familiar with what can be lengthy waiting lists to access services, but there are many other options and resources available to you which you can access either whilst waiting for NHS support, or in conjunction with it.

  • SHU Wellbeing is a great starting point for accessing support when you're struggling with your wellbeing, whether you're in need of urgent help or having concerns about your longer-term mental health. You can either access self-help resources or register for further support. If you need further information on SHU's Wellbeing services, you can visit Hallam Help either in person or online.
  • Hallam Support Triangle: If you're concerned about your wellbeing or mental health and it's starting to affect your studies, you can visit your Student Support Officer who can help you access specialist services when you need them you to extra support.
  • The SU Student Advice Centre have lots of self-help wellbeing resources on their website, covering issues such as loneliness, low mood and depression, and stress and anxiety. You can also book an appointment with the Student Advice Centre by getting in touch, and they will be able to direct you to services relevant to your situation.
  • Nightline is a student-run, confidential and anonymous non-advisory listening and information service. They run an online live chat and also have a phone line (0114 222 8787) which operates 8am-8pm Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.
  • Togetherall is a safe, online community where people support each other anonymously to improve mental health and wellbeing. Online resources include community forums, courses, and mindfulness exercises.
  • Samaritans are a charity providing immediate support to people in emotional distress, struggling to cope or at risk of suicide. As well as providing many online resources, they have a 24/7 help line for anyone who is in need or urgent support. You can find out more about Samaritans by visiting their website, drop them an email or call on 116 123 for support.
  • Emergency Services: If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call the Emergency Services on 999 or 112 from any phone.

If you need any further information or supporting information on any of the issues discussed in this article, please contact studentrights@shu.ac.uk.