SDLP Economy Spokesperson, Sinead McLaughlin MLA has called on Economy Minister Diane Dodds, who is responsible for third level institutions and those studying there, to stop ignoring the financial distress students are experiencing and introduce a support payment immediately.
The Foyle MLA commented following the startling results of an SDLP survey of third level students across the North, showing huge numbers of our students are in financial distress and 94% of students reporting poor mental health as a result of the pandemic.
The Foyle MLA commented:
“Throughout this pandemic, students have been virtually ignored, despite the burden of covid-19 falling heavily on young people. The financial support they have been offered has been pitiful and did not even begin to address the level of need. They are barred from claiming benefits and most of their part-time work has dried up and many have not been paid furlough payments either.”
"Diane Dodds and Conor Murphy have ignored the financial stress suffered by students for too long. They must introduce a direct one-off support payment now, similar to that introduced in the South and in many countries across Europe. The fact we are approaching a year of covid-19 and most students have yet to receive a penny of financial support is appalling, given the levels of assistance provided to many other sectors. Diane Dodds has just handed back millions of pounds to Conor Murphy of unspent monies, and his own department have held back £126 million for additional covid support - supporting all students should be at the top of their agenda this week.”
Sinead was speaking after the results of the SDLP's survey of third-level students:
“Last week, we launched a survey and asked students to share their experiences directly with us. Hundreds of students responded and the results were harrowing. 75% of students said the pandemic had impacted their finances and almost 50% are paying accommodation costs for places they cannot stay in. Probably the most frightening statistic of all is that 94% of students who responded said the pandemic has impacted their mental health and wellbeing.”
“We are urging Minister Dodds to adopt our proposal and immediately make arrangements to award every full-time student in the North and studying in Britain a direct hardship payment. While this would not make up for extortionate tuition fees and crippling rent costs, this will go some way to mitigate the financial distress so many of our young people feel.”
“The Executive has £126million available to support people through the impacts of COVID-19 and a scheme like ours would cost a fraction of that, while providing huge relief to our young people. We urge Minister Dodds to act now.”