View from the House: It’s not right to ignore these young people

PUBLISHED: 08:30 05 September 2020

MP Stephen Timms doesn't think charities like Newham Community Project should be left to feed destitute overseas students.

MP Stephen Timms doesn't think charities like Newham Community Project should be left to feed destitute overseas students.


I have repeatedly pressed the government to lift the “No Recourse to Public Funds” restriction - which prevents many families who live and work legally in the UK from claiming Universal Credit if they have to stop work - for the duration of the pandemic.

So far, other than modest changes - for example, through availability of free school meals - my calls have fallen on deaf ears.

International students, in the UK to study, with a student visa, cannot claim benefit.

They are allowed to undertake limited work in the UK while studying. Many do so, to pay both their student fees and living costs.

But many student jobs stopped when the pandemic hit.

At the same time, many students’ families have themselves been hit by the pandemic.

In India, family businesses have been hit hard. Banks have closed in some areas, so that – even if the family has savings available – money cannot be sent out of the country.

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Support that students would have expected from their families has dried up too.

This week I visited a remarkable food bank in Katherine Road, East Ham.

Newham Community Project runs it for destitute overseas students, mainly from India.

Free food is provided to 700 students each week.

Founder Elyas Ismail told me the number being helped has steadily increased since April. Twenty volunteers are involved. They depend completely on donations. Recently, Newham Council has started to help by providing some food.

As well as providing food, the Project negotiates with Universities over fees.

Many students cannot meet their payment deadlines. Newham Community Project is pressing for more time for the bills to be paid.

I applaud Newham Community Project. But it can’t be right for government to wash its hands of the fate of so many young people who have trusted Britain for their education.

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