The president of the students’ union in GMIT Castlebar has warned that the increase in registration charges for students may lead to some students trying to take their own lives.
“In the past six weeks we’ve had three students try to take their own lives and two of them have been money related; this extra €500 is only going to add to the pressure students are under financially and could lead to more students trying to take their lives,” Alan Judge told the Mayo Advertiser yesterday.
Mr Judge hit out at the Government’s decision to cut the minimum wage by €1 per hour also as it will hit already struggling students hard. “It’s going to really hit those in the middle, those who don’t have big financial backing and don’t get a grant,” he said. “They’re the ones who are working in jobs that pay the minimum wage part time to keep themselves going through college, and the Government now want them to work for a euro less an hour. We’re going to see a lot more people dropping out of college because they can’t afford it, plain and simple.”
Mature students who have gone back to college to try and better themselves is also an area that Mr Judge feels will also be dropping out. “When you look at those who came back to college to try and better themselves and were told that the Government would support them, they’ve seen their grants cut by five per cent already and because they’re on back to education grant they can only work a limited number of hours and if they go over it they could lose their funding,” he added. “It’s hitting those who can least afford it really hard.”
Worry and fear of what is to come has also resulted in people turning to charities such as the St Vincent De Paul in their droves this winter, according to Martin Waters from the charity. “Last year was a very bad year for people, but we’re now seeing four and five times the amount of people coming to us for help,” he told the Mayo Advertiser. “People are very scared of what will happen. We’ve had people who are hearing that social welfare will be cut by 14 per cent and they’re at their wits’ ends. We’re trying to do what we can to help but it’s very tough this year.”
Even though the country is going through its worst economic crisis since the foundation of the State, the people of Castlebar are still rallying around organisations like St Vincent De Paul in whatever way they can, Mr Waters added. “We had our annual collection a few weeks ago and we thought that it would be down on last year, but it actually went up which was a great surprise for us,” he revealed.
“That shows the commitment of the people in Castlebar to help out those who need it the most in the toughest of times even if it means a little bit less for themselves, but the people in the town have always taken great pride and ownership of the work we do.”