21 October 2020
By Elaine Murphy
Holly Cairns TD, Social Democrats spokesperson for Further and Higher Education, has called on the Government to immediately address the impact of Level 5 restrictions on third level students.
“As the lockdown comes into effect this week, college students will face a particular set of challenges, so it is essential for the Government to support them. We had hoped the creation of a new Department of Further and Higher Education would lead to greater leadership and direction in this area – unfortunately, this is something that has been lacking during the pandemic.
“Students are feeling abandoned. Last minute decisions and piecemeal interventions are perpetuating inequalities.
“Fees were already too high and the failure of the Government to reduce them has a serious impact on students who do not have part-time jobs this year and whose families may also have lost their incomes. The €250 rebate in the budget was welcome – but it is just a once-off and is not a measure that will be based on need.
“Accommodation continues to be a major issue. Students rented accommodation in good faith during the summer, but with increasing restrictions many are studying entirely online and are moving back home. While university accommodation services are providing refunds for students, private companies and landlords are not obliged to. The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have been calling for greater rental protections for students, who are treated differently to other renters.
“The issue of paying student nurses and midwives has arisen once again. Only final year students on internships are paid. Others on mandatory placements in hospitals, who face additional Covid-19 risks and heavy workloads, only get small accommodation or travel allowances.
“Back in March, after a high-profile campaign and pressure from myself and other opposition TDs, the Government paid students as healthcare assistants. This approach needs to be reinstated immediately. The INMO (Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation) and USI are campaigning on this issue and we fully support them.”