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‘Food Boxes’ for struggling students a damning indictment of Education Minister and SUSI System – O'Brien

7 January, 2013 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson, Deputy Jonathan O'Brien, has reacted with anger at the news that some student unions are now having to set up food boxes for students who are finding it too difficult to afford food.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has today stated that third level students are struggling to pay for rent and food due to the on-going delays in the processing of their grants.

Deputy O'Brien said:

“The fact that we now have a situation in which the USI is basically feeding students is a damning indictment of Ruairi Quinn, the SUSI system and this entire government. It is unacceptable that students would be facing this level of hardship at any time but it is especially galling given the news that the government has just acquired 58 shiny 2013 Audi A6 cars for their own use.

“We are now into the second semester of the college year and there are 5,500 students out there who have yet to receive a cent of their grant payment. The delays have always been a source of great stress for those affected but the situation is now at crisis point.

“Students may be forced to drop out of their courses because they are hungry or because they cannot afford somewhere to live close to their college. This is now the reality for students in the Ireland of 2013.

“The Labour party should hang its head in shame to be part of an administration that would allow such circumstances to develop. We would expect this from Fine Gael so I won't even begin to criticise their role in this fiasco. It is an extension of a programme for government that protects the wealthy, promotes corrupt bankers and persecutes ordinary people.”

The Cork North-Central TD continued by criticising the SUSI online system for the processing of grants, stating:

“The system and the operation of the system have been an unqualified failure for government and an abject disaster for students. Sinn Féin has constantly highlighted that the website requires major improvements and the need for a proper tracking process is unquestionable.

“In October, we raised concerns about the standard of communications regarding the status of applications which we regarded as being extremely poor. Either helpdesk staff are under-resourced or there are even deeper flaws with the system that have not come to light as of yet. The new system was supposed to improve the processing system but it is cumbersome and inefficient. It is clearly not fit for purpose. Is this something you would expect of a government that touts the idea of a knowledge-economy so regularly?

“Last semester, I was concerned that there was a possibility that those in government did not realise the very real hardship that these delays are causing students. However, I am now convinced that they are aware of the extent of the problem but that they simply don't care. This apathy only serves to highlight the fact that the only real aim of Fine Gael and Labour in government is to ensure that ordinary citizens continue to service the debts of toxic banks.”


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