Photo: Oisin McHugh True Media
University of Limerick Student’s Union (ULSU) has launched a hardship support service to assist students in difficult financial situations. The aim of the initiative is to tackle student poverty through offering financial aid, food and textiles. The scheme is also environmentally friendly, as it encourages students and staff to donate their unwanted goods.
According to the Limerick Post, the SU began accepting donations from December, as students not returning for a second semester contributed their non-perishable foods and clean bed linen to the college’s accommodation office before leaving for Christmas. This is in addition to the already-established student hardship fund, which gives financial assistance to students facing economic hardship.
Adele O’Carroll, ULSU’s Services & Facilities Officer, spoke to Trinity News. O’Carroll said that this project allows the students to give a hand to fellow students.
“It is a community initiative at heart. Quite often, students will be leaving the college, either for the Erasmus program or work placement, or quite simply because they are international students staying for a single semester, so this is a way for them to put their surplus goods towards a worthy cause. Students make their donations at the reception offices of the student villages.”
The news comes after the recent survey by Eurostudent into the financial situations of students. Approximately 36% of Irish students say they are in severe financial difficulty. The report also states that the average income for all third-level students is €754, while average expenditure clocks in at €832. In addition, 42% of a students’ expenditure, on average, is covered by a third party, such as a partner or parent, compared to 33% in 2013. O’Carroll pointed out that for some students, financial difficulties can come out of nowhere.
“We are aware that students often themselves in tough financial situations. Circumstances can change overnight, and one unanticipated experience, such as a dental appointment, can throw your budget into chaos. We want to be there for all of our 13,000 students should they need us.”
The service provides struggling students with food, bedlinen and towels and small electrical appliances. “We accept sealed, non-perishable food, clean bedlinen and towels. We also receive plenty of small appliances such as heaters, phone chargers and desk lamps from students travelling to countries where Irish plugs are useless. Students can also contribute to the student hardship fund. We provide a, ‘bed-in-a-bag,’ which is quite popular with the students. Our food pantry is kept in steady supply, but we are completely out of towels!”
“This isn’t the only service we have on campus. We have a Student Associate, Sean Bailey-White, who listens to issues and problems from students and is always willing to help in any way he can. We also have a free drinking water scheme, which provides free, chilled and filtered water to students. This is available in our SU office to all students. The project not only saves students money, but also cuts down on plastic bottle waste, so it’s good for the environment.”
Trinity Collge Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Kevin Keane has praised the initiative. Speaking to Trinity News, Keane said: “ULSU’s food bank project is a really positive development. There’s no question that frontline student support of this kind is hugely important, and well done to ULSU on the initiative. In Trinity, we have a robust financial hardship system – the Student Hardship fund and the SU’s Welfare Loans combine to provide a high level of support. As in all things, though, we should learn from other SUs – I will be contacting ULSU to learn from their experience, and to examine if this is an idea we could emulate.”