On Tuesday, October 12 the government announced the 2022 budget. The document, which sets out the government’s strategy for how finances will be raised next year, has several additions pertinent to student and youth life, on the topics of public transport, contraception, and Higher Education.
A key feature of the budget is the introduction of a Youth Travel Card. The card will be available to those aged 19-23, granting them a 50% discount across the transport network. By way of comparison, the Student Leap Card fare is identical to the Adult Leap Card, with a reduced daily and weekly cap. This introduction will benefit not only students, but also young people who are not in higher education.
The new budget also sets out plans for contraception now to be free for women aged 17-25. This comes as part of a €31 million women’s health package, €10 million of which will be used to tackle the issue of period poverty which affects women and girls across the country. It is not yet confirmed whether these services will be accessible through Third Level Institutions.
Additional funding has been announced across the board for the Higher Education sector. A total of €3.7 billion will be allocated to Higher Education; an additional 3,320 CAO places are to be funded through €68 million of this sum. €34 million is to be allocated to apprenticeships, and off-the-job training places for 7,000 craft apprentices impacted by COVID-19 will be made available. The €200 fee for Post Leaving Cert courses is to be abolished.
A key measure in this area is the €200 increase in the SUSI grant, which will benefit some 60,000 students nationwide. This announcement marks the first time in a decade that the government has increased funding for the grant. As well as an increase in the grant itself, the qualifying income threshold for the grant has now been increased by €1,000, widening its availability. There will also be a reduction in the necessary distance for the non-adjacent SUSI rate, from 45km to 30km, meaning students living 30km or more from their college will receive €3,225 rather than the adjacent rate of €1,215.
Sustainability and Climate
There is a sustainability element to some of these changes. With up-skilling in mind, an estimated 35,000 learners will be able to avail of “green skills” modules, which will address key skills needed in order to join the environmental and sustainability workforce.
The Budget has not been warmly received by a key stakeholder; the Irish Universities Association (IUA) has stated that the funding would not address the “core funding deficit” in the sector. Speaking to The Irish Times, it said the majority of additional funds will be absorbed by “standstill” funding requirements and a contribution to funding long-standing pensions deficits. UCDSU has said of the Budget, “
Rosie Roberts Kuntz – Assistant News Editor