A volunteer with the Castlebar conference of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP ) has noted the increasing difficulties local families are experiencing in day-to-day living: increased fuel costs for travel to work and increased heating costs for those working from home, etc.
They said this week: "It’s as if the worker is caught in a costly ‘catch-22’ situation." The volunteer also said they expect the situation to worsen as food and fuel costs increase and especially now with the dramatic increase for those repaying mortgages.
The SVP, as usual, is stepping up to meet the needs of locals struggling (see the website www.svp.ie for more details ). One way the SVP is helping is with the cost of education.
The volunteers have already donated more than 300 school packs to primary and secondary schools in and around the town, and the SVP in Castlebar has launched its Education and Training Bursary for 2022/23. The bursary will support local students of all ages who may financially struggle to access or stay in third-level education and training programmes.
The volunteer said: "SVP recognises the importance of education at all levels. However, for many people accessibility and affordability are real barriers to obtaining a third-level education or training.
"In the last few years, Castlebar SVP has dealt with many students from different backgrounds whose grant payments are simply not enough to cover accommodation costs, let alone the additional costs of food, travel and books. This situation has been made worse with the current rental costs and cost-of-living crisis. However, we have found that working families who do not qualify for grants may be even worse off than those who do qualify."
The volunteer gave some examples of how students, both first-time and mature, were helped by means of the SVP Bursary: students needing to pay for accommodation, food, books and IT where the students grant did not cover their full costs and their families did not have any savings or spare resources to help them; people who needed to pay for equipment and exam fees to participate on training courses which should lead to better employment opportunities; a lone parent who was undertaking a part-time degree course that allowed them to balance their family commitments and seek out new employment opportunities – there is no SUSI grant for this type of course; and assistance with transport costs for a student who has to travel each day to another town for their course.
Recent research by TU Dublin has shown that students looking to study in Dublin could face costs of at least €13,305 – yet the maximum SUSI grant is €6,115. Even in nearby locations, such as Galway, the cost can vary from €800-€1,100 per month.
The Castlebar SVP Bursary will consider all recognised third-level education and training programmes for funding. However, postgraduate studies (Master or PhD ) or private colleges are not eligible. The volunteer said: "In addition, our local branches have supported individuals with transport costs, food, fuel and childcare while they undertook training or education courses".
Students must demonstrate that they have applied for all available state funding or other grants. Information on other sources of funding is available on the Student Finance website. Bursary awards are dependent on funding availability.
For more information on how you can apply for education grants, visit the website: https://www.svp.ie/what-we-do/education-grants.aspx, or email [email protected].
SVP income The SVP supports locals with money it receives from different sources. One source is the profit it makes in its Vincents shops (e.g. in the walkway from Supervalu to Linenhall St ), but the main source is through their annual appeal each November. This takes the form of church gate collections and blue envelopes sent to each house in and around Castlebar, so please remember them this year because it’s struggling locals – perhaps a neighbour, friend or relation – who will need that leg-up.