Students 'struggling to afford food'
Third level students are struggling to pay for rent and food because of delays in processing education grants, according to the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
First-time grant applications are being processed this year by Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi), a centralised system operated by the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee (CDVEC).
Of the students whose applications have been approved, 28 per cent, or about 5,500, have yet to receive payment, USI president John Logue said.
Trinity College Dublin Students' Union set up a food box two months ago for students struggling to afford daily meals. Other colleges around the country followed suit or have begun handing out food vouchers, Mr Logue said.
According to him Susi’s failure to promptly pay grants has led to students going hungry. “You can bet your bottom dollar” that the students seeking food assistance are on “a financial scheme of some description” he said.
The poor state of the economy and a lack of graduate jobs has put increased pressure on students to concentrate on achieving first class degrees, often to the detriment of their health, he continued. “Unfortunately at this stage hunger is an issue in Irish universities”.
He could “see a huge difference between the comfort levels of students in institutions now compared to two years ago. It is a genuine slog now.”
Students who should have received grant payment are “literally begging” their landlords not to evict them. He said however the USI had not heard of any cases of evictions and praised landlords who had been “very lenient” for the most part.
A spokeswoman for Susi said by now “virtually all completed grant applications have been processed by Susi”. That includes some 10,000 applications received after the August 31st, 2011 deadline. Failure on the part of students to provide necessary documentation has delayed most of the remaining payments, Susi said.
“Of the 27,606 that have been awarded 3,313 have yet to supply bank details and college confirmation of registration. As soon as Susi receives this information these payments will issue immediately.”
In previous years, students applied to their local authority or VEC for college grants, with some 66 authorities involved.
The Susi system was established to speed up the application process, as local authorities and VECs were struggling to deal with an increasing number of applications within a reasonable timeframe. This year Susi processed 43,818 applications, 27,606 have been awarded and 16,212 have been refused.
City of Dublin VEC said an external review would take place to help improve the service for next year.