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Economy Minister Diane Dodds today said the allocation of an additional £10.4million was vital in supporting those higher education students facing hardship and other issues caused by Covid-19.

However, she added that she intended to announce further support for students impacted by the pandemic later this week.

She said: “I have been clear that I am acutely aware of the hardship being faced by students in our local higher education institutions at the moment. My allocation of an additional £10.4million to help address student hardship will enable the higher education institutions to help many more students in financial difficulty.

“It is vital that the institutions distribute this funding to those in need without delay. I will also continue to work for students and seek more financial support for them.”

The Minister was speaking after her Department received £24.5million to support learners and businesses. The allocation comprised:

  • £10.4million to help address student hardship;
  • a further £1.7million to reimburse students in further education for the increased use of mobile devices for their learning during the pandemic;
  • £7.4million for the Large Tourism and Hospitality Business Support Scheme to cover the additional period of restrictions until March 5; and
  • £5million for the Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme also to cover the additional period of restrictions.

The Minister has also requested additional flexibility to be able to allocate more resources should restrictions be extended further.

Turning to the additional support for learners in further education settings, the Minister said: “Our local further education colleges were quick to react to the pandemic and make the move to online teaching. This has been very effective under the circumstances but it has come at a cost for learners in terms of device and data usage. I am pleased to be able to allocate £1.5million to help reimburse them for this expense. This funding will be distributed by the colleges to their respective enrolled learners.”

On the issue of the additional resources for business support schemes, she said: “I was pleased to recently open the Large Tourism and Hospitality Business Support Scheme with a budget of £26.1million. I am now adding a further £7.4million to this scheme’s budget, which will enable it to support eligible businesses through the extended period of restrictions to March 5.

“Similarly, I have boosted the budget for the Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme with an additional £5million. This scheme has already paid out more than £26million to over 4,000 businesses and will continue to issue top-up payments to cover the latest period of restrictions.”

She said: “During this incredibly challenging time for the economy, this allocation represents significant support for businesses and learners to help them deal with the impact of the pandemic.

“I will continue to do all I can to support businesses and learners to get through this period and be positioned to maximise the opportunities that recovery will present.”