True story: I was live-tweeting the budget for Campus.ie and was tweeting about any announcements which would affect students.
I tweeted a total of four times – twice about the changes in the Universal Social Charge, once about the increase in the minimum wage and once about the increase of the contactless spending limit to €30.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the Government don’t care about voters under the age of 26. The issues which affect young people were forgotten.
In the run-up to the 2011 election, the Labour Party pledged not to increase university fees, yet ‘free’ university education now costs €3,000 a year, after increasing by €250 a year every four years.
Those who cannot afford these fees may apply for a SUSI grant. This year about 20% of the SUSI applications considered so far have been refused.
Approximately 34,000 applications still haven’t been processed yet, which means there are students who will find out they won’t be receiving a grant and will have to drop out.
There is a lack of affordable housing for students. For those who can find scarce accommodation, they risk being economically evicted by rent increases of up to €300 a month.
Young people who are not in education may get rent supplement but, according to a study by the Simon Communities, 93% of available accommodation is above the supplement levels.
There were over 500 people between the ages of 18-24 who were homeless last year. This figure has undoubtedly grown in the meantime.
Jobs and unemployment
The budget increased the minimum wage by 50c to €9.15 an hour. This is a discount on the living wage calculated at €11.50 an hour.
Those who rely on job seeker’s allowance are supposed to survive on less than €10,000 a year. You could get a €50 bonus each week by getting a JobBridge placement, or just €2 an hour for a full time job.
The economy is improving. Those leaving university are finding there are more jobs available than there were a couple of years ago. However, those who don’t make the leap will find they have very far to fall.
I know students who can’t afford to pay for lunch, or who go without seeing a doctor because they can’t afford it.
Young people without families to fall back on face a dire situation, where between the lack of affordable housing and the lack of fair wages, they can’t afford to live.
Yet we’re being told that this budget gave something to everyone?
How to Change Things
The Government ignores young people because we are one of the groups least likely to vote.
By comparison, pensioners, one of the groups with a voting turnout of more than 90%, received an increase in their pensions of €3 a week, as well as a 75% increase in their Christmas bonus and an increase of €2.50 a week for the heating allowance.
If we want things to change we need to speak up, and we need to let politicians know that we have a real say in whether they get elected or not.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and other Students’ Unions recently had voting drives and registered thousands of students around the country to vote.
If you care about these issues, please vote and get involved. No change ever happened because a person wasn’t bothered.
Photo: Alf Melin/ Flickr