Welfare Officer Candidate: Úna Carroll – ‘The Agony Aunt’
Úna Carroll is a third year BA Linguistics, Information and Communications student alongside being the Students Union current disability coordinator running to be the next UCDSU Welfare Officer. Carroll says the job of Welfare Officer “is something I have been doing a lot over my life”, supporting friends and family through difficult times.
She has been a class representative, was involved in setting up the new Disability Awareness and Inclusion Society and now wants to bring her experience to the Welfare Officer role. Carroll said that due to the fact that their jobs are mainly casework, Welfare Officers cannot have many new initiatives, she wants to see a focus on practical supports and events for students. She particularly wants to see a renewed focus on SHAG week being an educational one, as opposed to something that is more of a laugh of students. Carroll also wants to change up how the SU run its big awareness events, making SHAG, Rainbow week etc. yearlong focus rather than just singular weeks.
Carroll wants to make sure that students are aware of the various financial supports that are available for them as well, including the Welfare Grant, Lone parent grant and supports through the Access Centre. She also wants to look at ways to show students how to cook meals for €5 as a money-saving measure. Carroll noted that many students face financial difficulties relating to the high cost of accommodation, saying that she herself was nearly homeless at one point.
When asked about how practical her aims for the role were, Carroll said she has spoken at length with various current and former Welfare officers across the country. She has also spoken with education officers given how interlinked the two roles were. Carroll emphasised that there were no pie in the sky ideas here and she “wants to stick with what is realistic”.
A big aim for Carroll away from the standard Welfare areas of supporting and informing students was a desire to work on training for Class Reps and leaders of Societies and Clubs. Carroll wanted to create a system where students who had issues would have more options and the freedom to contact someone who was closer to them in class or societies with their problems. This also meant that there would be less of a jump from the student to the Welfare officer, with clear lines in place so that issues could be escalated to the Welfare Officer.
When questioned on this Carrolls said that while the training would be voluntary, she would see there being an expectation that Class Reps would do it. Carroll said that while they were volunteers there is no harm in the approximately 200 students who are involved in the SU as College Officers and Reps having this training. Carroll admitted that giving society leaders this training was more complex due to the structure of societies and the fact the needs that societies service differ hugely.
Carroll as a whole is aiming to bring the support of the SU Welfare office closer to the students. With new training initiatives and a desire to bring pop-up SU clinics to every building on campus, Carroll wants to make it easier for students to come to the SU with their problems by bringing the SU to them.
By Aaron Bowman – CoEditor