MORE students than ever at ATU Donegal are being forced to use foodbanks because of the crippling cost of living crisis, the Students’ Union has said.
ATU Students’ Union Welfare and Equality Officer Barry Breslin told the Donegal News he has also seen an increase in students turning to the university’s counselling service, given the difficulties of financial pressures being experienced.
“We have had to refer more students to the support of the foodbank than any years previous,” said Mr Breslin.
“We’ve also had an increase in pressure on our counselling service, given the added headache that financial difficulty adds to the situation. We have had to refer more students to that support service than in previous years.”
Mr Breslin said more students are also relying on in-house supports, including financial aids such as the Student Assistance Fund which supports students via two lump sum payments. He said this resource has come under serious pressure in the last two years, and warned that he expects the current upsurge to remain in place for quite some time.
“Another financial resource that has seen an increase in footfall is our Emergency Student Assistance Fund. This resource is there for students who are in a critical financial situation and are in dire need of financial support,” he added.
Mr Breslin said the Students’ Union is trying to remove stigma associated with financial difficulties.
“What we’re doing from our end is trying to raise awareness of the free services we offer to students. We acknowledge there can be a stigma towards having to admit you need financial help but the Students’ Union will do all we can to support them.”
Meanwhile, Fintan McGrath, PRO, We Care Letterkenny Foodbank, said the number of people accessing the service jumped by 10 per cent between 2021 and last year. While the voluntary organisation does not ask the occupation of those seeking its help, Mr McGrath said he believes the cost of living crisis is impacting people of all ages across the board.
“As we do not ask for or record an individual’s occupation I cannot say with any degree of certainty that the number of students has increased or decreased since the new year.
“While we cater for all age groups and record broad age profiles for statistical purposes, we are not aware of an increase in students or younger people using the foodbank service.
“I would imagine the cost of living issue impacts on all age groups, both young and old, and we aim to assist no matter what the individual’s circumstances might be.”
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