The Government has announced its support for students coming home over the Christmas period, as the UK’s five-day window for students to come home opens this Thursday.
However, a support group for students have highlighted that certain issues are still unaddressed.
The new measures, announced on Friday, include providing self-isolation accommodation for those who cannot isolate at home, and supplying support packs of basic cosmetics and supplies until students can go shopping.
The Government has put the measures in place after almost 600 overseas university students responded to their survey, with more than half saying that they would be travelling back to Jersey during the UK travel window from 3 to 9 December.
Approximately 45 students who responded to the survey indicated they would need help with self-isolation, and a joint team from the Jersey Youth Service and Skills Jersey has been set up to make direct contact with those students.
Pictured: The Government have posted a chart of the flights throughout the travel window period and other advice on their information page.
They also encouraged any students who had not filled in the survey but felt they may need to help with isolation to get in contact with them.
It comes as the Government launched a series of Monday-Friday ‘lifeline’ flights from Southampton today, in partnership with Blue Islands, with a flat rate of £99 per flight.
Assistant Education Minister Deputy Jeremy Maçon said: “I would like to thank all of the students who took the time to respond to this survey. I’m equally grateful to the Jersey Youth Service and Skills Jersey for contacting those students directly who may need assistance with accommodation when they return.
“I would strongly encourage those students who wish to return to Jersey for the Christmas period to book their flights now. Unlike other Channel Island jurisdictions, there are currently scheduled flight options for students to book their travel home to Jersey and there is currently sufficient capacity via the commercial airlines for overseas students to return to the Island.
“The data from the recent student survey has provided us with the information needed to understand demand. We are confident that additional flights can be provided at short notice, on a charter basis, should commercial flights no longer be available.
“Any students who haven’t responded to the survey, who feel that they might need assistance to self-isolate, can contact the Youth Enquiry Service on email@example.com or on (01534) 280530.”
WATCH: Assistant Education Minister Deputy Jeremy Maçon delivers a message to students.
The new information has left a number of questions up in the air for some students and parents though, with the Student Loan Support Group highlighting that the new guidance makes no mention of return flights for students in January, something the group flagged last week.
“The concern is that flights coming here had been cancelled so many times and so many have had to rebook, that it was going to start happening for the return,” a spokesperson for the group said. “For some who have to get back to uni it gets to be a concern. Plus the cost as refunds can take months, and if you need to rebook with another provider there’s that cost.”
They added that: “If flights were to be cancelled around Christmas, it’s likely trying to get hold of anyone in Government whilst the assembly is on the holidays won’t be swift.”
Responding to a query from Express on the matter, a Government spokesperson said: “Jersey’s air connectivity is monitored by a Travel Cell which includes representatives from CYPES. Ministers have committed to provide capacity in the event there is insufficient commercial connectivity for students returning to the UK in January.”
The Student Loan Support Group also pointed out reports of issues with Income Support services - the FAQ on the Government’s website says that the Minister for Social Security had agreed that “as long as students can demonstrate they have ongoing expenses outside the Island (such as a lease, or proof of rent payments) their parental household can continue to get the adult component of Income Support for them.”
Despite this, the group said they were told Ministerial Decision to put these regulations in place had not in fact been agreed on yet, saying: “as we understand it, because the Social Security Minister has not amended the regulations, families are not getting their rents adjusted, and not receiving the payments they had thought they’d be getting.”
Pictured: Some parents on income support are concerned that they won't be able to get their rents adjusted on time.
As of yesterday, the group said they had been in contact with both Deputy Maçon and Social Security Minister Deputy Judy Martin, and had been told that they were looking into the issue. A Government spokesperson told Express: “Where a household is getting support with the costs of rent through Income Support, the level of rental support does not decrease whilst a student is studying outside the Island. Income Support always recognises that the student will need a bedroom when they come back to Jersey.
“The Minister has confirmed that income support households containing students who have chosen to return to Jersey very early will be able to get help with their living costs . Students who will be returning from December onwards will be added to their parents’ claim as normal. The Minister has also agreed to help students from income support households who have chosen to remain in their student accommodation over Christmas.”
“Islanders should update Income Support with any changes in their circumstances by calling 01534 444444.”
Speaking of the Government response overall, a spokesperson for the Student Loan Support Group said: “This is so late in the day it has left everybody feeling it’s been done because they were pushed, not because they saw the need.
“It will be interesting to see how the support works in practice.”
Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.