Tánaiste says student grant fund to be reviewed in budget

Thousands of students surviving on rations of dry toast, cereal and coffee, Dáil told

Solidarity TD Mick Barry said the scenes at the UCC this week should make Ministers ‘blush if they had any shame’.  File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Solidarity TD Mick Barry said the scenes at the UCC this week should make Ministers ‘blush if they had any shame’. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Student grant funding is under review in the budget the Dáil was told after it emerged that UCC students queued up at a food bank for assistance.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry said thousands of third level students are skipping dinner and surviving on rations of dry toast, cereal and cups of coffee because they have the highest accommodation costs in the EU.

He highlighted the struggle students at UCC faced when a foodbank ran out of supplies less than an hour after it opened when 131 people queued up for assistance.

UCC Students’ Union’s foodbank supplied groceries to some 30 students a day in 2019 but when it re-opened on Wednesday it provided food to more than 100 before running out of stock, according to media reports.

The union has appealed for Government support and Mr Barry said the scenes at the campus should make Ministers “blush if they had any shame”.

He said that “under this Government, thousands of students are literally surviving on rations of dry toast, dry cereal, a cup of coffee and skip dinner”.

“How could it be otherwise when we have the highest student fees in all of the EU and we have students forking out €700 or more per month just for a box room?”

Raising the issue in the Dáil he asked Tánaiste Leo Varadkar what the Government would do about “the crazy rents being imposed on students and the crazy fees on their backs”.

Mr Varadkar acknowledged that “many students are struggling financially, whether due to the cost of rent, utilities, food, fees or other things they have to pay for”.

He said the main support for students was through the grant system which helps more than 75,000 individuals every year.

“The grant levels are under review in the budget,” he said.

Mr Varadkar added that in recognition of the “real and serious hardship” faced by some students Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris doubled the student assistance fund to €17.2 million and “he has allocated €596,000 of this to UCC to assist students who are in real financial need”.