UCD has received a top-up tranch of funding from the Government for the Student Welfare Fund this month. The money, totalling €317,344 for UCD, comes as part of a €3 million national payment into similar funds across all of Ireland’s institutes of higher education.
The money allocated to UCD will be divided up among the numerous student support funds, including the emergency Welfare Fund, and the newly re-established means-tested Student Assistance Fund.
This payment has come as a welcome relief to the Student Support Staff as their fund resources began to run low following a rush of applications before the Christmas break. UCD Welfare Officer Mícheál Gallagher explains: “It’s a supplementary allocation, to help alleviate some of the pressures and some of the associated costs to our funds because of the SUSI fiasco. We had to cover financial messes that wouldn’t have existed if people had got their grants on time, so this extra money will help to go towards repaying that money that was used.”
Last semester the Student Support Staff found themselves with some difficulties administering funds to students who had financial difficulties due to the constraints in force on the Welfare Fund, which is a fund designed to assist students who find themselves in emergency or unexpected financial trouble. While in previous years a means-tested fund operated for students who were experiencing non-emergency financial difficulties, this wasn’t set up in semester one as there was no one available to administrate the fund. With this money now secured, the Student Assistance Fund has been reinstated and will be accepting applications from the beginning of term.
Gallagher explained: “There’s not always an emergency; there’s not always an unforeseen circumstance that pops up… This money means the difference between saying to students, ‘Sorry, we can’t afford to help you’ and saying ‘Keep your applications coming, the whole team is ready to support you’… Students are encouraged to submit at least €500 worth of receipts. The money is in force as of now.”
The absence of the Student Assistance Fund highlighted the need for the Student Support Staff to assess the current administration of UCD’s numerous support funds. Plans are currently being put in place to “overhaul the support system” according to Gallagher, though they are currently in early stages. Once complete, the Student Support Staff will report back to the University Management Team to “recommend changes going forward to make the system much more friendly and student-orientated.” It is hoped that this report will be completed by April 2013.