As Ireland reaches the first anniversary of the cost of living hitting a crisis point, students across Ireland continue to feel the pressure of balancing their studies and adult life.
January 2023 marks several aspects of the “big spend” budget brought forward at the beginning of this academic year, most notably the increase of the minimum wage to €11.50/hr. It also marks the midway point of the winter energy allowance, which provides a total of €600 credit on energy bills per household meter between November and February.
January has also seen some of the worst hospital overcrowding in recent memory due to notable upticks in the cases of COVID-19 and flu, and a downturn in the rate of individuals receiving both flu vaccines and COVID-19 booster jabs. This is keeping individuals out of work, and increasing expenditure over the winter months.
Speaking to the University Observer about the ongoing crisis, Campaigns and Engagement Officer for UCDSU, Robyn O’Keeffe, had this to say: “My opinion, and general opinion of the union, especially as affiliate members of the Cost of Living Coalition, is that the problem is simply the current government and current government policy. So, we are of the opinion that until change is made, this crisis probably will continue. So that is why we are continuing to push back, that’s why we’re getting out on the streets, and that’s why we’re going to continue to lobby [...] to put pressure on the government to think of the people.”
Following up on the SU’s proposed Food Drive, which was mentioned in an interview with the Observer in our September edition, O’Keeffe stated that “We’re very aware of the food insecurity that students in UCD are facing.” Plans are ongoing, but nothing has yet been confirmed. “We’re trying to find an adequate space, a permanent space to have, to be able to store that food.”
O’Keeffe also highlighted to the Observer that the €500 rental tax credit included in the budget is not of great help to a lot of students, as many are in unofficial rental agreements, such as digs, and therefore cannot apply for the tax credit. “While we welcome that €500, while it’s a start, that €500 rent tax credit, it’s not benefiting a lot of students.”
This ties into another student issue with the new budget, as covered in Michael Keating Dake’s piece this issue on the minimum wage increase, which is that the minimum wage for under 20’s is still far below the living wage standard, leading to increased pressure on that cohort of student workers and student renters.
If you would like to get involved SU campaigns, keep an eye on their social media, or contact the UCDSU campaigns team for more information.