On 3 March Northern Ireland's Economy Minister announced a £2.9 million package of support for further education students to address digital poverty. Eligible full time and part time further education students will receive a one-off payment of £60 to help address data costs incurred through remote learning.
NUS-USI President Ellen Fearon responded: “The pandemic has exposed digital inequality which was already prevalent across the country. We have been talking about the need to support students facing digital poverty for the last 12 months, so this payment of £60 for further education students is very welcome.
“However, we cannot help but compare it with the Covid Disruption Payment announced recently – a discretionary payment of £500 for all full-time higher education students. Further education students have faced financial hardship throughout the pandemic as well as digital poverty, and the discrepancy in support now feels very stark.
“I hope that the Minister takes note of our petition to extend the Covid Disruption Payment, signed by over 3500 people, calling for it to be extended to include further education students. Further education students should not be left behind, and I urge the Minister to extend the scheme and recognise that all students deserve better.”