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NUS launches legal action over government plan to scrap maintenance grants

The government has reneged on commitments given to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, says Bindmans lawyer

24 September 2015

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The government's controversial decision to abolish maintenance grants is to be the subject of a legal challenge from the National Union of Students (NUS).

The chancellor, George Osborne, revealed plans to scrap the grants during the 2015 Summer Budget. The government has said it will carry out an 'equality analysis' when new regulations are laid.

However, the NUS has now sent a judicial review pre-action letter to the secretary of state for business, innovation, and skills, Sajid Javid, demanding that the equality implications are properly considered before any further steps are taken to change the law.

The NUS believes the abolition of the grants will severely disadvantage students from low socio-economic backgrounds. The union has argued that converting grants to loans will mean the poorest students will graduate from university with the highest debt, which will increase by £12,500 to a total of £53,000.

The pre-action letter, issued by Bindmans, says the government has failed to meet its obligations and must assess the impact its planned changes will have on the lives of current and future students.

The NUS president, Megan Dunn, said: 'It has been clear since the budget that the government has failed to assess the impact that scrapping maintenance grants will have on our poorest students.

'There is also strong evidence that removing this support will mean our education system becomes less accessible to minority groups. We know the huge damage that this change will have if it is allowed to happen. It is obvious that the government is attempting to rush through these changes with no consideration on future generations of students.'

Bindmans' solicitor Salima Budhani said that in reaching its decision to abolish maintenance grants, the government has failed to comply with its duties to advance equality among certain groups.

'The universities minister candidly admitted in parliament that the government does not even hold information which is necessary to undertake a proper assessment. That should have prompted consultation and research and a reconsideration of the policy decision,' she added.

'Previous work of the coalition government to assess equality impacts of government policies has apparently been abandoned and the government has reneged on commitments given to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to continuously assess equality impacts in formulating policy.'

John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor for Solicitors Journal | @JvdLD

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