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Financial Wellbeing for Students in 2022

The wellbeing of our student community is important to us and is always a key focus for the University. Many households might be feeling the pressure of the current increase in living expenses – such as a rise in our gas and electricity bills, and an increase in food and fuel prices – which may be causing us to worry about our finances. These changes come on top of the financial impact of Covid-19 restrictions.

These factors can contribute to increased levels of stress and anxiety, especially for those on lower incomes.  This page includes information to help you manage your finances, and where you can turn for support and financial guidance. It also signposts sources of support for mental and emotional wellbeing.

Money management can seem daunting. It can be confusing to know where to start. It is much easier to break personal finances down into separate sections that make up the whole and ask ourselves some questions to help us understand whether we are maximizing our income, managing our spending as effectively as possible, and then look at where we can receive further help if we need it.

Am I receiving the correct amount of student finance?

Most UK students receive funding from the UK Government via the Student Finance system of loans and grants. Student Finance England would administer funding for English students, SAAS administers funding for Scottish students, and Student Finance Wales and Student Finance Northern Ireland would assess application for their respective regions. Each of their websites have information on the funding available (some also have a funding calculator) so you can work out whether you are receiving the correct amount. For SFE funded students, we also have detailed information on our website here.

A good tip is to make sure that you have supplied the correct household income information with your Student Finance application so that an accurate assessment of funding can be made. For example, if your household income has reduced during the last year, you can ask your Student Finance body to re-assess your funding using a ‘Current Year Income Assessment’, which may increase your funding. Also, make sure that your Student Finance account is up-to-date with your term-time address, because a higher Maintenance Loan is paid for students living in their own accommodation as opposed to their parental home.  

Don’t forget that any earnings that you, the student, make from part-time work do not affect the amount of Student Finance you receive. If you can find part-time work while you are studying, this is a great way to boost your income. You can speak to the University’s careers experts in Sunderland Futures team.

Am I entitled to any benefits?

DWP benefits:

Most full-time students cannot claim Government benefits (such as Universal Credit) but there are exceptions – such as benefits for disabled students, or for lone parent students. We have dedicated a section of our website to discuss Universal Credit, who is eligible, and how it is calculated here

Council Tax:

Also, do not forget that full-time students can see a reduction, or exemption, from their Council Tax bill. Properties that are exempt from Council Tax are halls of residence and ‘dwellings occupied only by students’ (which includes the house or flat of a student who lives alone). 

If you live with non-students, then your property may not be exempt from Council Tax.  If you live with a non-student spouse or partner, and there are no other adults living in your home, you can receive a discount of 25% on the Council Tax bill when you become a full-time student, irrespective of your spouse/partner’s income.  Your spouse/partner may also be able to claim Council Tax Reduction/Support to further reduce the bill.

You will need to obtain a Council Tax Certificate from the University after enrolment to prove your status as a full-time student. Simply print one from your university MySunderland account.

In February 2022, the Government announced that a £150 Council Tax Rebate would be paid to householders living in properties is Council Tax Bands A to D. If you are paying Council Tax by direct debit, this will be paid into your bank account. If you do not pay Council Tax by direct debit, or are exempt from paying Council Tax, check your Local Authority website for how to apply for the £150. Sunderland Council for example will ask you to complete a form - see here.

Free School Meals:

As a student, you can still receive free school meals for your children if you receive either:

  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190); or
  • Universal Credit - your household income must be less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get)

You will need to contact the Local Education Authority of your child(ren)’s school and show evidence of your Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit award.

Let’s look at expenditure. Can I make any savings?

This is an equally important part of looking at your finances, along with maximizing your income.

We have some great guidance on the Money Matters section of our website - including tips on money-saving and links to excellent online resources such as Money Saving Expert.  Over the years, Money Saving Expert has become a superb resource covering many aspects of money advice, with separate sections for students, and dealing with bills and debts, among many others. It also includes tips on how to reduce your energy costs as well as their 2022 'Cost of Living Survival Kit'.

How can I manage my money better?

The sections above are a starting point for preparing a budget – maximizing your income (student finance, part-time work) and looking at your expenditure. We have prepared some information and tools on our website on a page called Keeping Track to help you take the next step in keeping track of your finances.

One of the tools we provide is PANDA - the University’s very own budgeting tool, which is part of the University’s app. PANDA is very easy to use. You simply enter your income and regular expenditure, and PANDA does the work for you by calculating how much money you have left to spend each week/month once your essential bills have been paid. You can find out more details here.

I am concerned about the increases in my gas/electricity bills. Where can I find help?

There are some great resources online that can help you with tips on how to reduce your energy costs, such as the Money Saving Expert website's energy tips and their Cost of Living Survival Kit.  

Your energy provider may also offer support if you are struggling with your energy bills. Citizens Advice have a webpage page with further information on this and the Money & Pensions Service have an excellent Bills Prioritiser tool on their website

In February 2022, the Government announced that a £150 Council Tax Rebate would be paid to householders living in properties is Council Tax Bands A to D. If you are paying Council Tax by direct debit, this will be paid into your bank account. If you do not pay Council Tax by direct debit, or are exempt from paying Council Tax, check your Local Authority website for how to apply for the £150. Sunderland Council for example will ask you to complete a form. See here.

In addition, the University is providing financial support for students to help with increases in domestic energy bills and fuel for essential car travel, with a new Cost of Living Support Fund. This Fund is open to all University of Sunderland students living in the UK – whether you are a UK Home student or International, or studying full-time, part-time or distance learning. You can find out more about the Fund here

As you can see from the webpage, the Cost of Living Support Fund offers students £100 in financial support by way of a contribution towards their domestic energy bills (gas and electricity). You are eligible if:

  • You own your home or live in rented accommodation where your bills are not included in the rent you pay; AND
  • You are responsible for the payment of domestic energy (gas/electricity).

There is a short application form to complete. You will also need to provide evidence of the above. This is explained in more detail on the application form. 

What support or advice is available from the University if I am in financial hardship?

Our Student Financial Guidance Team are here to discuss any aspect of your finances in confidence, and have also set up some pages on our website with information on support available to students in hardship.

Our Student Support Funds Office deal with applications to the University Hardship Fund, which is open to UK students who find themselves struggling financially while studying with us. You can find more information on the University Hardship Fund here.

As mentioned above, the University has also introduced a new fund this year to help students with their domestic energy costs called the Cost of Living Support Fund. You can find out about the new fund here

Who can I speak to confidentially about my debts on credit cards and personal loans?

If you are in debt crisis it is important not to panic. The best thing to do is get in touch with a free, non-profit debt counselling service. They can talk to you about your debts and offer you support in dealing with your creditors. Sources of independent advice include:

 

I am concerned that my money worries might be affecting my mental health. Who can I speak to?

Money management and wellbeing, especially mental health, go hand-in-hand.  There can be a spiral effect, where debt worries and struggling with money management can lead to mental health problems, and vice versa.  For further advice and information see:

The University’s Wellbeing Team offers support with wellbeing and mental health related issues. You can find them at:

  • Sunderland campus: see here
  • London campus: see here

The team also provides 24/7 online programmes through SilverCloud where you will find further resources including a programme related to financial worries. 

Who can I speak to confidentially about any of my financial concerns?

You can contact the University’s team of experts in student finance matters, the Student Financial Guidance Team. They have a dedicated section of our website here, filled with detailed information, and you can find their contact details here.

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