Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Cambridge MP acts to help dance students caught in no-mans land

Cambridge dance students may have to give up their studies having found themselves caught in “no man’s land” when it comes to getting cash help from the government.

Thirty nine young people studying through Cambridge Performing Arts, who do not qualify for student loans to help with fees and accommodation have now been told they can no longer claim housing benefit.

They have called on Cambridge MP Julian Huppert to help and he will be visiting them at the Bodywork Company Dance Studios on Friday (January 9) to find out more about their plight.

The students, aged 16 to 20, fail to qualify for the government’s Student Loans because their courses are classed as ‘non-prescribed’ higher education, but they were entitled to housing benefit as further education students.

A recent court judgement, however, ruled that the courses’ status should be changed to ‘higher education’ as they lead to level five and six qualifications. As a result, the students lost entitlement to housing benefit which is only paid to under 21s studying for level 3 qualifications.

Bodywork Principal, Theresa Kerr said: “It is a travesty to think that some of our students may have to terminate their training at Cambridge Performing Arts due to housing benefit being denied to them. Many students already work outside of college hours to assist with their fees and living costs and the impact of losing housing benefit is of great concern.”

Julian said: “These students have found themselves in a no-man’s land caught between two sets of regulations and as a result, some of them may be forced to give up their studies. This is a terrible situation where talented young people could be prevented from taking their art forward because they cannot get the support they need to continue.

“The Lib Dems have worked hard in government to make sure that everyone should have a fair chance when it comes to higher and further education. We put in place scholarships and bursaries which have led to more young people than ever before going to university.

“But for those people who choose a different path because they have a musical or theatrical talent there seems to be a huge stumbling block. I am deeply concerned about this issue and want to find out more to see where I can help.”