Sinn Féin spokesperson for Further and Higher Education Rose Conway-Walsh TD has labelled multiple announcements made by Minister Harris on student financial supports and mental health funding as “an exaggeration of what is actually available”.
Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“In July, as part of a package for the safe return to campus, Minister Simon Harris announced an extra €10 million in financial supports for students and €3 million for mental health services on campus. A similar announcement was made the same week as the Budget.
“I welcomed these commitments at the time as I know the difficulty many students are facing. The announcement was very clear that this was additional funding.
“However, figures released to me by the Department now show that past announcements were complete spin.
“We now know that there was €18.2 million in the Student assistance fund in 2020/2021 academic year and there will be €17.2 million for 2021/2022. Furthermore, the total funding in 2020/2021 specifically for on-campus mental health supports was €5m – this will remain the same in 2021/2022.
“Instead of the €10 million extra announced there will be €1million less in the Student Assistance Fund. Instead of €3 million in additional funding announced for on-campus mental health services there will be no increase at all.
“Six colleges, Technological University Dublin, Munster TU, Waterford, Dundalk, Letterkenny, and Carlow institutes of technology will actually receive less this year than last for mental health services.
“The Minister needs to be honest and upfront when it comes to student supports and mental health services.
“I believe the Minister owes students an apology as it is completely inappropriate for students struggling financially or with their mental health to hear these disingenuous announcements”.