Starting last year, The University of Westminster provided students with the only thing that will calm somebody in the middle of exams, dogs. And lots of them.
The University of Westminster Facebook Page
The university has been trying its hardest to ensure their students mental health stays positive during exam season by creating events that students can attend to take their mind off revision, these include: a nap room, a bunny room and a dog room. The sessions were held during the week.
Dan Seamarks, the sabbatical officer for Harrow campus has said “”I think the University has provided a good insight into how to revise and how to stay healthy during the exam period. Today, they’ve released research into this. However, we’re always happy to hear students feedback and ideas to take to the University.”
The students’ Union take student welfare seriously and offer counselling at every campus all year round “”The Students’ Union provides welfare and advice to students daily, as well as through the Exam Period. Officers, Receptionists and the Welfare Team can all point students in the direction of help and support in this tough period. We are steadfast in student welfare being one of our top priorities and our Advice team have been available to support students throughout. We ran a campaign a few weeks ago that was aimed at ensuring students knew about these services in the run up to exams.”
Other universities across the UK have also taken steps to ensure that students are prepared for the exam season. Goldsmith University offered students a free DIY art session in order to help and de-stress students who were sitting exams. Whilst Leicester University also had a puppy room, they also set up a free Laser Quest session. Glasgow University are currently running a two-week programme jam packed with activities such as dodgeball and Bradford University were offering free massages and food for students during their exam week.
The University of Westminster have also released a video on how to cope during the exam period, courtesy of Smoke Media.
The UK Government is imposing a ban on unfair letting agent fees. This is to stop people from falling into the trap of hidden costs, and stops agents from exploiting their role between renters and landlords.
In the past 30 years, there has been an increase in rent and buying houses since the 80s. The chart below starts at just under £50,000, and in some years this has spiked up to above £300,000.
Infographic: Tooba Haq
We spoke to some students living in London about their experience with hidden costs and estate agents. Fay Cross, who has been hit with hidden agent fees. “We signed the contract and were given fees from the estate agent that they previously didn’t tell us about, we also had mice which the landlord and estate agent both refused to help sort out.”
Melissa Cowern, who lives in Harrow, a location populated heavily by students said “We were told originally that it was a £500 deposit each, but then we were told that we had to pay guarantor fees, agency fees and tenancy fees which were around £100-£200 each which we won’t get back, he said that all agencies did it so we had no hope of finding anywhere cheaper.”
The conversation has been blowing up on social media after it was announced yesterday, many letting agents claim that the ban of fees could harm the security of the landlords. This is what people on twitter had to say:
In London alone, there are over 8,000 people sleeping rough. The government’s benefit cuts and failing welfare system have seen the number of homeless people in London double over the last five years.
As one of the most expensive cities in the country, Winchester has a growing problem with homelessness as more and more people are pushed out of affordable housing. One person who is trying to help is Connie Ball, a 21-year-old graduate of Winchester University; she decided to start a soup kitchen.
credit: Mag’s Media
“When you walk through the main street in Winchester, there are homeless people sat outside every shop. Seeing such a wealthy city become more expensive and seeing more people turned out onto the streets makes me really angry.” Connie wasn’t sure what she could do to help, but she figured a batch of soup wouldn’t be passed up. “It only takes an hour to make a batch of soup and another hour or so to hand it out, I figured it was worth trying.”
Connie had lived in Winchester for two years before starting the soup kitchen. The pivotal moment that made her start? “I am always in awe when I walk through Winchester, it’s a really beautiful city. It was October time, so it was raining heavily. I realised I was lucky to be living in such a wonderful city but that there were other people who weren’t and I just thought I should be doing something about it.”
Connie spoke to one homeless man and offered him some change, he refused to take her money, so she rolled him a cigarette and had a chat with him. “He wasn’t much older than us, he was telling me about his upbringing. He had an abusive dad and had a drug problem from an early age because of it.” The man was in Southampton with work but was laid off, he made his way to Winchester as people tend to give more money and there is more shelter.
Credit: Wikimedia. Homeless people find shelter in Winchester shop entrances.
Connie has spent the past year organising and funding the soup kitchen herself, she advertised it on the university webpage and within days received over 100 responses from people interested in volunteering. Although the soup kitchen runs like a society, the university have no interest in being apart of the organisation. “The university see it as unsafe so it’s all organised over Facebook, they also don’t seem thrilled with me still being a part of it, but I’m not too fussed.”
People who wish to volunteer can visit the non-profit organisation called The Winchester Hub, which works directly with the university and is used as a point of access for students who want to volunteer. “Lots of people are getting involved, we usually get around five to ten people a week helping to cook the soup and distribute it. Plus, one of the grocers at the market gives me a huge crate of vegetables for £10 so I can make lots of soup. It’s great to see the community helping each other.”
Credit: Wikimedia. 8,000 people sleep rough in London every night.
So, what can you do to help if you live in London? I asked Connie for some key tips on how to help the homeless in such a large city:
Safety is so important, safety in numbers. Make sure there are at least four of you.
Talk to local food banks, see what they’re already doing.
Find out what food you can give out.
Join an already formed soup kitchen.
If you want to do it yourself, ask your university or soup kitchen if you can use their kitchens once a week.
If soup kitchens are already covering days, organise yours on a day they aren’t.
If you find somebody sleeping rough call StreetLink to help them find safety.