April Monthly Review - Precious

It may not be the best way to spend the Easter holidays, but I hope you all had a good Easter break! Remember the storm never lasts forever, we will get through this together.

 

Accommodation support (lobbying for a rent reduction or waive)

It may not be the best way to spend the Easter holidays, but I hope you all had a good Easter break! Remember the storm never lasts forever, we will get through this together.

In our work to continue supporting our student body as always, we have been lobbying Bristol’s MPs and landlords regarding student’s early release from their accommodation contract. I wrote a template letter which students can download and send to their landlords.

The affordability of accommodation is a massive issue and has been for some time, but the current pandemic has highlighted the level of this problem. It’s our job to show that it’s only fair that students get what they deserve, so with the support of the NUS, we sent a letter to MP’s in Bristol, detailing our concerns and of the larger student community, which then led to some responses and further conversations.

In a virtual meeting with MP Darren Jones, he offered to write to landlords of our students in his constituency and also offered to raise these concerns at the next MP’s meeting.

MP Kerry McCarthy acknowledged that she shares our concern about the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on students, and the impact this has on their housing situations.  She stated that she will speak to MP Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow housing secretary and will support any action she takes. She further mentioned that she had also signed Paul Blomfield’s letter to Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan. Finally, she encouraged us to let students in her constituency who are facing issues, know that they can get in touch and she will offer them any support possible

 

MP Thangam Debbonaire

MP Thangam, who is the Shadow Secretary of State for Housing co-signed the letter written by Paul Blomfield MP, Chair of the APPG for Students. She also wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Local Government, Housing and Communities, Robert Jenrick which included matters mentioned in the letter we sent to her. In her letter to the Secretary of State she asked whether there can be measures of support to fairly share the responsibility of unused student accommodation.


Following our conversation, MP Thangam has offered to write a letter to landlords of students in her constituency and has asked the Universities Minister to acknowledge the concerns and bring forward proposals to address them without delay as students deserve no less and need further clarity on all these issues.

 

MP Jack Lopresti

In response, MP Jack Lopresti has in turn written on my behalf to Chris Pincher, Minister of State at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) raising our concerns. This led to a response from Luke Stephens (Head of Ministerial Correspondence) listing the actions of the government in response to this concern and encouraging landlords to be sympathetic to tenants who may be struggling during this time and in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemics.

 

First Bus Lobby

With a clear understanding that the current situation is unprecedented, I still have a duty of care for our students and will continue to do my best to support our students during this difficult time.

On behalf of The Students’ Union, I wrote to First Bus in regards to our student's queries about possibly getting a refund for their annual bus pass is no longer in use. Students have expressed their worries of not having used the pass for 6/8months due to lockdown restrictions, and have also raised that some First bus services have been reduced.

First Bus responded stating that although they understand the current situation, no refunds can be made for partially used tickets. Unfortunately, this may not be the response students want and we do understand the challenges everyone is currently facing, but this is an ongoing conversation.  

 

Other updates

I have regular meetings with the Governors and as a team, the Presidents have weekly meetings with The Students’ Union CEO, Tim Benford and the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Steve West, as well as other staff members across the University. During these meetings we discuss upcoming issues, campaigns and activities going on within the University, including the launch of the no detriment policy and the Bristol Nightingale Hospital, ensuring that our student's safety is prioritised during this process.

  • As a union, we signed the UUK exams letter which you can find here.
  • We also signed a letter led by the University of Greenwich Students’ Union calling for fees to be waived for healthcare students particularly those who have stepped up to fight this deadly virus.
  •  To keep the students engaged, The Students’ Union has arranged a range of weekly virtual activities including a Q&A cook along and a dance session from myself, as well as other activities from other members of staff and the Vice Presidents.

This month, myself and Evan (Vice President for Societies and Communication) had our last Student Governor Forum meeting - it’s been such a pleasure working with the Governors.

During this meeting, The Students’ Union CEO explained to members that he felt the Presidents Team showed humility and deserved every credit for their achievements. The Vice-Chancellor encouraged the Presidents Team to capture the positive work and skills that we have developed during this period of disruption and members noted that the Presidents Team has demonstrated the ability to manage difficult situations, effective time management and how to be successful leaders during a crisis.

The Vice-Chancellor expressed that professional lessons learnt would serve the Presidents team well in our futures and congratulated us on successfully undertaking our roles.