WE1 Accommodation crisis

Proposed by: DITSU

USI Congress Notes:

The difficulty in recent years students face in obtaining accommodation especially in the Dublin region.

USI Congress further Notes:

That for many students, having affordable and fit-for-purpose accommodation is a prerequisite for attending college.

USI Congress therefore Mandates:

The President and relevant Vice Presidents to lobby the relevant authorities for more regulation in the rental market for students and also long term investment into the development of more purpose-built student accommodation.

USI Congress further Mandates:

The President and VP Welfare to also lobby the relevant authorities for incentives towards landlords and homeowners who take in students.

WE2 Student assistance fund

Proposed by: DITSU

USI Congress Notes:

The importance of the Student Assistance Fund (SAF), the role it plays in supporting students across the country, and how quickly it runs out in many HEI’s around the country.

USI Congress further Notes:

The SAF “Best Practice Framework Document 2013” written by USI.

 USI Congress Notes with Concern:

The high volume of SAF motions currently on the policy manual.

USI Congress hereby deletes:

14 / Wel 7, 13 / Wel 8, 13 / Wel 9, 12 / Wel 1, 11 / Wel 13

USI Congress therefore Mandates:

That the President and Vice President for Welfare campaign for increased funding for the SAF scheme, and lobby against any cutbacks to the fund.

USI Congress further Mandates:

The Vice President for Welfare to provide briefing to all MO’s on all aspects of the SAF, and seek representation on all committees relating to SAF on their campuses, and to also continually lobby the HEA to redraft the guidelines for the SAF and to include recommendations to increase efficiency of systems.

WE 3 Consent

Proposed by: IT Tralee SU

 

Congress applauds the success of sexual health and empowerment campaigns such as SHAG week, which promotes a healthy attitude towards sex with a holistic approach.

Congress agrees that while sexual consent is included as a part of SHAG week, it is time that the USI rolled out a comprehensive national student consent campaign separately.

Congress Mandates that the Vice President for Welfare, Campaigns and Equalities and Citizenship create a national consent campaign. That is gender neutral in approach and separate to SHAG week.

Congress Further Mandates the USI President and Vice President for Welfare to actively lobby and campaign for mandatory consent classes or workshops to be delivered to every single class within the third level education system in their first semester of college.

WE 4 Anti-Bullying Policy

Proposed by CITSU

Congress Notes

The lack of policy and awareness in the area of bullying in Third Level.

Congress further Notes

That bullying can present in many different ways and in various aspects of student life including, but not limited to in class, accommodation and through social media.

Congress affirms

USI Cyberbullying Policy as passed by Congress in 2013

Congress mandates

The Vice President for Welfare  develop an Anti- Bullying Policy that would take into consideration USI Cyberbullying policy  and assist local officers in following through with its recommendations and action points.

WE 5 Rent a Room Relief Scheme

Proposed by CITSU

 

Congress Notes

The increasing shortfall in purpose built student accommodation, relative to the demand for such accommodation.

Congress Further Notes

That whilst this problem is especially prevalent in Dublin, is also a growing issue in many other areas across Ireland in proximity to Higher Level Institutions

Congress Notes

That there is a lack of awareness of the Rent a Room Relief Scheme amongst property owners across Ireland

Congress applauds

The Rent a Room Relief Scheme which allows homeowners to rent a room in their house to private tenants, with the subsequent rental income earned being exempt from income tax, provided this income does not exceed a certain limit in a tax year. In Budget 2015, it was announced that this limit would increase from €10,000 to €12,000.

Congress Believes

That an increased awareness of the Rent a Room Relief Scheme will lead to an increased availability and of alternative accommodation sources available to students apart from traditional purpose-built student accommodation

Congress Believes

That an increased awareness of the Rent a Room Relief Scheme will lead to more affordable student accommodation options

Congress Mandates

The relevant officers/officer board to advertise this scheme along with relevant accommodation campaigns and to  provide support to member organisations  in local campaigns around accommodation.

 

WE 6 DRUG AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Proposed by Welfare Working Group

 

Congress notes

That drug and substance abuse is a growing issue in Irish Society with a wide availability and prevalence of drugs  in most areas, especially in areas where Third Level institutes are based.

Congress further notes

There is currently very little being done both locally and nationally to combat this issue  with very little organisations present, to help Students Union or any other organisations in campaigns for students on drug and substance abuse.

Congress further notes

12/ WEL13- Substance Abuse mandate that demonstrates the need for a substance abuse strategy document  to be created in the area of substance abuse, containing information in relation to drug awareness, campaigns, how to combat addictions and other items deemed essential to be included by welfare working group This mandate also states that appropriate training should be provided for Welfare Officer over the summer period so they can handle cases in this area. However it is stated that this motion should apply  until December 2012, therefore the need for an updated motion.

Congress therefore deletes

12/ WEL 13 Substance Abuse

 

Congress believes

That the issue of drug and substance abuse significantly impacts on the welfare of our members, including related issues such as mental health, homelessness, addiction , financial issues and safety.

 

Congress  mandates

The Vice President for Welfare to   create a Drug and Substance abuse strategy  in consultation with Welfare Working Group. This  document should  contain information  in relation to drug awareness, campaigns, how to combat addictions and other items deemed  essential. Appropriate training should also be provided for Welfare Officers over the summer period so they can handle cases in this area and be prepared  to implement campaigns locally throughout the academic year.

 

Congress also mandates

The Vice President for Welfare to lobby the relevant ministers to  flag this area that is being over looked and for a national organisation to be set up to combat this area and to help various groups and organisations in campaigns on Drug and Substance Abuse

 

 

WE 7 Minimum Wage for Student Nurses

Proposed by: DCUSU

Congress is proud

of the dedication, commitment and work ethic of our student nurses and midwives in increasingly difficult circumstances within the Health Service.

Congress notes with disgust
the continuing under-payment of nursing students who are on their mandatory internships in their final year.

Congress believes that
this system devalues the contribution of student nurses and midwives and ensures the fundamental principle of equal pay for equal work is not applied to them.

Congress therefore mandates
All of Officerboard to build a campaign to lobby the relevant Government Departments to see that student nurses and midwives are no longer assessed under Section 16 of the Minimum Wage Act 2000 and that they are paid the minimum wage for their work.

 

 

WE 8 Student Housing Associations

Proposed by: USI President

Congress notes with concern

That student accommodation prices have risen by over 10% nationally in 2014 and that there is a deficit in purpose built student accommodation in Ireland.

Congress notes

That USI highlighted this issue in 2014/2015 and that a number of projects are underway by USI officers on this area.

Congress also notes

That many other jurisdictions have Student Housing Associations whereby accommodation is provided for students by students.

Congress believes

That USI should explore setting up a student housing association in Ireland.

Congress also mandates

The USI President to research best practice in relation to student housing associations and to consult with key stakeholders on the possibility of USI running an independent student housing association.

Congress also mandates

The USI President to research vacant properties that may be available to create student accommodation and research funding avenues that USI may pursue in order to be in a financial position to create a student housing association.

 

WE 9  Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance Week

Proposed by the USI Vice President Welfare

 

Congress notes

That five percent of Irish 18-year-olds will leave secondary school without any formal sexual health education, according to the Durex Sexual Wellbeing Global Survey, 2012.

 

Congress further notes

The need to educate students on all aspects of sexual health when they first enter third level.

 

Congress mandates

The Vice President Welfare to endeavour to hold Sexual Health Awareness week in the first semester.

 

 

 

WE 10 Update USI  Physical Health Strategy

Proposed by Welfare Working Group

 

Congress notes

The USI Physical Health strategy is due to expire in 2015.

 

Congress further notes

The importance on USI having a Physical Health Strategy and need to update strategies that are due to expire.

 

Congress mandates

The Vice President Welfare to work with various bodies like Student Sport Ireland to create a new Physical Health strategy.

 

WE 11 FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF A DEPOSIT PROTECTION SCHEME

Proposed by Welfare Working Group

 

Congress notes with concern:

Reports of students having extreme difficulty in recovering their full deposits in a timely and fair manner.

 

Congress further notes with concern:

That in some cases, landlords are using students’ deposits as profit.

 

Congress calls on:

The government to honour its commitment from its’ own programme that set out to fully implement a deposit protection scheme.

 

Congress believes:

That the best way in which to do this would be to extend the arm and resources of the Private Residential Tenancies Board to act as a holding body/third party for deposits.

 

Congress mandates:

The VP Welfare, VP Campaigns and Officer Board to campaign and lobby to this end before the conclusion of the current government’s term but to update National Council in advance of the start of the Academic Year 2015/16.

 

WE 12 Motion to provide training and contacts to deal with issues regarding BTEA

Proposed by: GMITSU

 

Congress notes
The number of mature students who rely on the back to education allowance.

Congress further notes
That SU officers may be ill-equipped to deal with the problems arising in applying for and receiving BTEA.

Congress Mandates
The VP Welfare to organise training for SU Officers on dealing with casework relating to BTEA.

Congress Further Mandates
The VP Welfare to set up a contact within the Department of Social Protection that can be used by SU officers’ when resolving issue with BTEA

 

 

 

WE 13 Mental Health Awareness

Proposed by: NUIG SU

Congress acknowledges

The success of mental health awareness through the ‘Chats for Change’ and ‘See Change’ campaigns which have a significant focus on talking to someone about mental health and an individual’s well-being.

Congress notes

That although talking is a crucial message to the campaigns, some individuals require the use of Anti-depressants or Anti-Anxiety medication etc.

Congress Further notes

That the lack of information around the use of medication can lead to stigmatisation of individuals who use medication for mental health issues and can cause a great deal of distress for individuals who have the use of medication suggested to them upon presenting to a GP on a mental health issue.

Congress therefore mandates

The Vice-President for Welfare to include information on the use of medication in relation to mental health issues as part of their on-going mental health campaigns.

 

WE 14 Barrier Free Access to Support Services

Proposed by: NUIG SU

Congress notes:

The importance of supports services for students of our institutions which provide support in the areas of physical and mental health.

Congress further notes:

That these support services are of vital importance to students in the context of the prevalence of mental health and emotional difficulties among our members.

Congress therefore mandates:

That the VP Welfare would lobby for the provision of, as far as is possible, barrier free access to support services (e.g. health centres, counselling, etc.) on campus and would invest appropriately therein.

 

 

 

WEL 15 Sexual Consent Awareness and Training

Proposed by: the VP Equality and Citizenship

Congress notes

There are many incidences of sexual harassment or assault that occur on campuses right across the country. Sexual harassment is behaviour that is “unwanted, persistent and of a sexual nature”. Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to:

  • Unwanted sexual comments (including comments about your body or private life);
  • Unwelcome sexual invitations, innuendoes and offensive gestures;
  • Wolf whistling, catcalling or offensive sexual noises;
  • Groping, pinching or smacking of your body;

(e) Having your skirt or top lifted without consent;

(f) Someone exposing their sexual organs to you without consent.

 

Congress further notes

In the results of USI’s ‘Say Something’ survey, 1 in 5 women surveyed experienced some form of unwanted sexual experience, with 11% experiencing unwanted sexual contact. TCD conducted their own survey of students attending TCD, where results showed 1 in 4 female respondents being subject to an unwanted sexual experience.

Congress is aware

That there is no current form of consent training being provided to students in Ireland. As a consequence, there is a culture in third-level institutions where unwanted sexual contact and harassment has become normalised and is seen as an acceptable part of the college experience for many students.

Congress believes

  1. That all students have the right to be, and feel, safe on campus.
  2. That sexual harassment can cause serious distress and have a seriously detrimental effect on people’s well-being.
  3. That Students’ Unions need to educate its members about what sexual harassment is and the effects it has on people, in order to change people’s attitudes so that sexual harassment is no longer seen as acceptable.

Congress notes

That a form of consent training was provided to Freshers on a trial basis in Oxford University, Cambridge University, and a number of other institutions in the UK, and that USI should learn from this.

Congress mandates

The VP Equality and Citizenship, in consultation with VP Welfare, to endeavour to run consent training for SUs, so that all sabbatical officers are educated about sexual harassment and assault, and are trained to deal with reports of sexual harassment and assault more effectively and sensitively.

Congress further mandates

VP Equality and Citizenship, in consultation with VP Welfare, Cosc and any other relevant bodies, to design and implement a programme of consent training to be delivered during orientation/Freshers Week.

 

WE 16 Students with Learning Disabilities

Proposed by: DITSU

USI Congress Notes:

The excellent work done by USI in the area of representation for students with disabilities.

USI Congress further Notes:

That, in the past, campaigns regarding students with disabilities have tended to focus primarily on students with physical disabilities.

USI Congress notes with Regret:

The lack of attention which has been paid during this campaigning to students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, autism, etc.

USI Congress further notes with Concern:

That, for students with learning disabilities, services in third level institutes can be sorely lacking in some cases, thus placing a great barrier between such students and their access to education.

USI Congress Reaffirms:

That every student has a right to access to third-level education.

 

 USI Congress Mandates:

The Vice President for Equality and Citizenship and The Vice President for Welfare to run a campaign before the end of October in each academic year to inform students with any disability what support services should be available to them.

WE 17 RENT CONTROLS

Proposed by: Dublin Regional Working Group

 

Congress notes with concern:

The escalating housing crisis nationwide and the impact that this has had on the student population.

Congress notes with further concern:

The extent to which students must fend for themselves in the private-rental market and that this is now a serious issue for higher education access.

Congress condemns:

The almost entirely developer-led approach to student housing in Ireland and the lack of useful action by the government since USI highlighted the student side of the crisis in the summer of 2014.

Congress notes:

Recent calls by the Peter McVerry Trust, Threshold and We’re Not Leaving (among others) for the imposing on emergency rent controls on the private rental sector.

Congress affirms:

That at the very least, with 9 month leases now a thing of the past and with students being forced to suffer longer commutes, rocketing rents, hostels, couches and in some cases, having to drop out, there is no practical alternative other than some form of emergency rent control for the foreseeable future.

Congress mandates:

The President and the VP Welfare to work with appropriate bodies to lobby and campaign for some level of emergency rent control of the private sector and to report back to National Council in August.

 

 

 

WE 18 OPPOSITION TO THE PRIVITISATION OF BUS ROUTES

Proposed by: Dublin Regional Working Group

 

Congress notes with concern:

Government plans to open up a number of bus routes in Dublin Bus and Bus Eireann to private providers.

Congress also notes:

That longer commutes have a seriously negative impact on one’s mental health, as well as one’s student experience.

Congress affirms:

That public transport is a service that students depend upon and that its’ primary aim should not be ‘for profit’.

Congress notes with concern:

That USI’s pre-budget submission seriously highlighted that Ireland’s approach to students and public transport is lacking in comparison to most of the rest of Europe.

Congress mandates:

USI to express its opposition to further privatisation of public transport roots and that rather, the VP Welfare should arrange for a policy position and campaign that seeks to increase state-run, student-oriented transport services.

An update should be provided for the August 2015 National Council.

 

USI Congress Further Mandates:

The Vice President for Equality and Citizenship to lobby the Minister for Education to improve support services and funding for disability students.

 

WE 19 Student Bereavement

Proposed by the VP BMW

 

Congress Notes

Many Students who suffer from bereavement during their time in college can have effect on their mental health, finances and academic performance.

Congress therefore mandates

The VP for Welfare to co-ordinate a campaign with literature that provides support, advice and support services to students who are suffering from bereavement.

Congress also mandates

The USI VP for Welfare to provide training to Welfare Officers to support students in this position as well as providing links to organisations who work in the area of bereavement.

Amendment proposed by the VP BMW

Replace clause ‘Congress also mandates” with:

Congress also mandates

The USI VP for Welfare to provide training to Sabbatical Officers to support students in this position as well as providing links to organisations who work in the area of bereavement.

 

WE 20 USI Grant Reform Policy

Proposed by: the VP BMW

Congress Approves:

The adoption of the USI Grant Reform Policy.

 

WE 21 Higher Education Authority Core Access Grant

Proposed By Southern Area Working Group

 

Congress Notes

That the Access Grant, used for the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) and Student Disabilities Fund (SDF), is awarded by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), and that there are no strict guidelines as to how this funding is used.

 

Congress Further Notes

The lack of guidelines from the HEA, has led to a lack of transparency as to how the Access Fund is divided between the SAF and SDF, and also in relation to how the funding is spent.

 

Congress Believes

That there should be specific guidelines set in place by the HEA, as to how Institutes allocate funding from the Access Grant to the SAF and to the services supported by the SDF.

 

Congress Mandates

The President through their Chair on the HEA, to seek a full review of the Access Grant.

 

Congress Further Mandates

The President through their chair on the HEA, to seek the implementation of stricter guidelines surrounding the spending of the Core Access Grant and report their findings to National Council.

 

 

 

WE 22 Emergency Accommodation

Proposed by: Dublin Regional Working Group

Congress Notes

That the accommodation crisis in the Dublin Region is likely to see students struggling, again, to find accommodation for the 2015/2016 Academic Year.

Congress Further Notes

That many students are not in a position to commute while they search for accommodation and that temporary accommodation prices, e.g.  B&B’s, hostels etc., can often be expensive leaving students in a vulnerable place financially.

Congress therefore mandates

The Vice President for Welfare and the Dublin Regional Officer to investigate the possibility of arranging discounted temporary accommodation, that Member Organisations can refer students to.

 

WE 23 Liaison with Student Accommodation Staff

Proposed by Leas Uachtarán don Gaeilge

Congress Notes:

That many students move far away from home to attend university and that many choose Student

Residences as their term accommodation.

Congress Further Notes:

That some students may experience bullying or harassment in their student residences during their

time in University.

Congress mandates:

The VP Welfare to liaise with various organisations to promote Anti-bullying awareness, disclosure

training and any other relevant training to Student Residence staff to ensure that staff are trained

and able to deal with any issues that may arise for students living in affiliated Student residences.

 

WE 24 SUSI Representation

Proposed by: ITTSU

Congress notes

The importance of student representation by the Vice-President of Welfare on the SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) advisory body.

 

Congress further notes

The importance of National Council Working Groups as a forum to express student issues such as SUSI issues and that issues relating to SUSI casework may fall under the remit of Welfare and Education Officers in their respective SU’s.

 

Congress notes with regret

That the Vice-President of Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance does not directly deal with SUSI issues at Education Working Group and must invite the Vice-President of Welfare to attend the EWG in order for sabbatical officers’ queries and issues to be addressed.

 

Congress mandates

That the Education Working Group should be able to put SUSI issues on the agenda without having the Vice-President of Welfare in attendance if for some reason he/she is unavailable.

 

Congress further mandates

For the Vice-President of Welfare and Vice-President of Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance to lobby the Department of Education for a second seat on the SUSI advisory body to allow students to be represented on issues relating to welfare and quality assurance.

WE 25 Gambling

Proposed by CITSU

Congress notes

The addictive nature of gambling and how easily accessible gambling can be with development of apps such as Paddy Power and close proximity of  betting outlets to  third level campuses.

Congress notes with concern

Evidence of gambling that is frequently appearing on bank statements through Student Assistance Fund Applications and the number of students who are   faced with growing debt problems due to gambling.

Congress further notes

In an article on the Irish Examiner last March, Paul Mullins of Aiseiri, warns that among under-25s, as many as 90% start gambling on a handheld device. The alarming aspect of online gambling is that it reverses the trend of normal gambling given that it is overwhelmingly dominated by those under 25.

The Institute of Public Health said its studies indicated that gambling among young people was thought to be three times more prevalent than those aged over 21 years – a trend entirely attributed to online sites.

Congress Mandates

The Vice President for Welfare  to work with the relevant organisations to develop a campaign to inform students of the effects of gambling and  recognising an addiction.