Whilst the Students' Union has been working tirelessly with the University to address the problems identified more investment is needed to meet the challenges of the pandemic within the student community. This £10m investment is significant and will help put money directly back into student pockets, into new initiatives to help tackle deteriorating mental health and help to support the most vulnerable students.
Since the start of the pandemic, many students have seen significant disruption to their education, many seeing their learning conducted predominantly online and with little access to face-to-face support from their peers or their University.
This coupled with a significant restriction on student experience activities such as student groups and sports teams, which play a vital role in helping students build communities and support networks, has meant that many students feel lonely, isolated and struggling to cope with their mental health and wellbeing.
"We are over the moon to have been granted the £50k in order to allow for the continuation of activities that otherwise may have been compromised."
This is a particular issue for students as many move to other ends of the country without support from family and friends who others would usually rely on to support in times of need. Without that support, isolation can be very real and many have reached out to talk about withdrawing from education altogether.
Student financial instability has been further exasperated by the collapse of the part-time job market, as companies within the hospitality and events sector have been struggling to operate during the pandemic.
In the last academic year, the Students' Union Advice Centre supported 6,500 students; this is up from 1,500 in 2015. Since September, 40% of all cases have recorded themes of loneliness, or declining mental health. Huge burdens have been placed on Students' Union Advice Centres, with many more students than usual presenting with difficulties resulting from the pandemic. This additional resource will be paramount in supporting current and new initiatives to address these problems.
Students will have direct input into where this money is being spent over the coming months, the priority will be combating student loneliness, developing proactive mental health support initiatives and direct funding for basic needs to those most in need.
A particular thank you to Education Minister Kirsty Williams for recognising the contribution that Students' Unions play in delivering these vital support services and for investing in the delivery of front-line support in this way.
"We will be actively seeking student involvement and encourage students to get in touch with your suggestions on initiatives that will support them through these times."
This decision has demonstrated the importance of student representation at all levels of decision making. Congratulations to NUS Wales President Becky Ricketts for representing the voices of students in Wales and for gaining funding for Students' Unions in this way. The Students' Union will now work with NUS Wales and other Students' Unions across Wales to identify solutions to these important issues.
There are still many questions that will need to be answered as the year progresses around the quality of teaching and the experiences of students overall. However, this is an incredibly welcome step by the Welsh Government, one which has not been seen across the border.
Vice President Welfare, Georgie East:
"We are over the moon to have been granted the £50k in order to allow for the continuation of activities that otherwise may have been compromised. This year is different for everyone, but this will help us ensure we can keep our activities up and running and allow students to socialise in a safe manner. We see this as such a positive for student welfare and want to say a big thank you to NUS Wales and Welsh Government enough for the financial support!"
"This is a hugely positive move in the right direction and a result of all the hard work that Students' Unions in wales have been delivering. However, there is still a lot that we can do when it comes to supporting our students and we can only achieve this by working together. We will be actively seeking student involvement and encourage students to get in touch with your suggestions on initiatives that will support them through these times."