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Welfare Policy

Table of Contents

2022 WEL 1: Sexual Harassment Policies in HEIs

Proposed by: CMLOÉG

Congress Notes

That there are major downfalls in sexual harassment policy documents, as well as a high number of students reporting sexual harassment or violence (34% – over 1,100 students, according to a national survey). The USI must take a zero-tolerance approach to gender based violence, rape, sexual assault and intimate partner abuse.

Congress further understands

Students who are failed by their university policy have no course for appeal and often deal with the severe consequences of this failure in isolation. The disciplinary process for cases of sexual harassment should not be developed on an ad-hoc basis nor should cases of sexual harassment be assimilated into standard disciplinary process that deals with cases of plagiarism, drinking etc. Furthermore, there must be oversight and transparency regarding the implementation of sexual harassment policy.

Congress Therefore Mandates

That it shall be the position of USI to recommend the implementation of national standards regarding sexual harassment policy, developed with the input of those working in the fields of trauma informed care, sexual violence, women’s rights and minority rights. USI shall recommend that these standards should consider the following, amongst more in consultation with these groups:

  • Minimum standards of training for all parties involved in conducting disciplinary procedures including first contacts, investigators and disciplinary committee members.
  • Special accommodations must be outlined for students taking cases of sexual harassment which consider, how many times a complaining student must recount their experience of abuse, whether a complaining student can have someone speak on their behalf, whether the complaining student must face their accused, giving fair warning to the complaining student of exactly when the accused will be notified of the case against them and so on.
  • A support worker should be assigned to assist students who are taking a complaint through the disciplinary process. This role of the worker should include helping students to write and edit complaints and appeals; assisting students to compile supporting documentation; accompanying students to disciplinary hearings; assisting students in communicating with the disciplinary committee and appeals board; and keeping in touch with students to inform them of each step in the process. All support workers must receive adequate training.
  • Students making complaints of sexual and gender-based violence should be entitled to submit all relevant evidence for consideration. A lack of corroborating evidence is a  major reason for cases to fail, students who have witnesses of their assaults are not  allowed to have this evidence considered at any point in the disciplinary proceeding.
  • There should be no time limit on taking cases of sexual harassment/ violence beyond the requirement that all parties remain students/ staff of the university
  • Policy on sexual harassment should not contain sections on false complaints nor should they include a threat of retribution for complaints that lack evidence.
  • Complaining students must be kept informed of any and all updates to their case. The disciplinary committee should be in regular contact with the complainant, take on board any concerns regarding the handling of the case, make a genuine effort to provide any extra accommodation that is requested and reply to any communications from complainants in a timely manner.
  • The reasonable length of time that a case of sexual harassment should be dealt within must be outlined. Where there are delays, this should be justified by an objective reason and this reason should be clearly communicated to the complainant.
  • These standards should be made available to all complaining students as soon as they register a complaint
  • A permanent member of staff, separate from the disciplinary committee, should be tasked with overseeing the implementation of policy and ensuring that standards are met.
  • Reports should be issued to a body external to the university.
  • Where the handling of a sexual harassment complaint falls below best practice, the complaining student should have an option to register a complaint regarding this to the university and/or a body external to the university.
  • Aggregate data regarding the number of cases taken in a university, the portion of successful/ unsuccessful cases, the time taken to conclude cases, the number of complaints made regarding the process, the number of cases taken by students against staff, the number of rejected appeals and so on should be made available to students.

 

2022 WEL (NC) 2: Expansion of Provision of Free HIV Supports

Proposed by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union

Comhdháil notes:

The HIV epidemic is an intersectional issue affecting people of all walks of life, including the students we represent, and its continued presence in Irish Society for over 30 years alongside the many preventative measures we have available to us.

Comhdháil further notes:

The inequalities of the HIV epidemic have been exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic, and the closure of the Gay Mens Health service, deeming it not a priority of our government.

Comhdháil recognises:

The work done by many organisations such as HIV Ireland and MPOWER Ireland to make available free PrEP and free Rapid HIV testing kits.

Comhdháil mandates:

The Vice President for Campaigns, the Vice President for Equality and Citizenship, and the Vice President for Welfare to work with HIV Ireland and MPOWER Ireland and work with and lobby the HSE to expand the provision of free rapid HIV testing kits and PrEP within Colleges for every student who needs it.

Comhdháil Further Mandates:

The relevant Executive Team members lobby for extensive informational and educational resources to be more expansive, readily available and easily accessible.

 

2022 WEL 5: National Stalking Awareness Campaign

Proposed by IT Sligo Students’ Union

Congress Notes

The many victims of stalking in Ireland.

Congress Further Notes

Many studies suggest that most cases of stalking occur between the ages of 18 and 24 years old, directly coinciding with the typical age demographic of students of third level education.

Congress Recognises

The continuous work that many organisations, including Stalking Ireland and others are doing to create awareness and combat this area of concern within Ireland

Congress Further Recognises

Currently (March 2022), Stalking is not recognised in current legislation- the work of Senator Lisa Chambers, Eve McDowell, Una Ring and others to create the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Bill (Stalking Bill), will hopefully result in Stalking being recognised by law in the near future.

Congress Mandates

The Vice President for Welfare rolls out, in collaboration with the Campaigns Working Group, a national informational and awareness campaign for all students regarding Stalking. This campaign will collaborate with local and national campaigns where appropriate. This campaign will coincide with the 2018 WEL 12: Abusive Relationships, Sexual Violence & Harassment campaign if applicable.

 

2022 WEL 6: Night-Time Safety

Proposed by the VP Welfare

Congress Notes

The night-time industry is an integral part of the student experience. Unfortunately, the night-time industry in Ireland is in need of urgent reform at a governmental level to ensure that those engaging and participating in the industry are safe and are able to enjoy themselves. Congress also notes in late 2021, there was a clear rise in the number of cases relating to spiking, including the worrying trend of ‘needle spiking’ within the Irish night-time industry.

Congress also notes

The slow return of the nitelink services in Dublin following the easing of restrictions (and a lack of services all together elsewhere), a service which many students rely on to get home after standard public transport options have ceased. This has resulted in an increased demand on the taxi industry, and an increased number of people attempting to get home at the same time, a clear barrier to keeping our population safe.

Congress Acknowledges

The incredible work done by MOs and external organisations to ensure that students engaging with the night-time industry in any capacity are safe.

Congress Mandates

The VP for Welfare to engage with relevant stakeholders in the night-time industry nationally (inc. N.Ire) working to ensure the safety of patrons, and to continuously explore potential partnerships with new organisations.

Congress also Mandates

The USI Coiste Gnó to lobby the Government to introduce further supports to protect students engaging with the night-time industry, including but not limited to: further public transport supports outside of traditional hours, a review of legislation surrounding opening hours, further protection for students working in the night time industry

 

2022 WEL 7: Drug Harm Reduction and the Decriminalisation of Drugs

Proposed by the USI Vice President for Welfare

Congress Notes

In July 2015, USI National Council formally adopted a stance that called for USI to support a call for decriminalisation of drugs, with a view to taking a similar approach to the one in place in Portugal. Following the adoption of this stance, the VP Equality and Citizenship made a submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality as part of their Drugs Policy Review process. In 2016, USI Congress mandated the Coiste Gnó to lobby for decriminalisation, and in 2018, Coiste Gnó had developed connections with external expert groups to promote and produce information surrounding the use of drugs with a harm reduction focus and to promote decriminalisation models. Since 2018, the VP for Welfare has continued to engage with relevant stakeholders and endeavoured to ensure that any work being carried out by the Coiste Gnó referencing drugs has a harm reduction centred approach.

Congress Notes

College is a time when many students are exposed to drugs. For many students, this exposure can happen at an even younger age. There is currently very little information being given to students at second or third level about drug consumption or risks. There is a culture of fear amongst wider society around talking about drugs in an informed and responsible manner.

Congress Also Notes

That if a student gets a conviction for personal use, this can have lifelong implications. It can prevent a student from accessing a visa to certain countries, a job which requires Garda vetting, certain types of insurance, and can impede them from availing of further education or training. A criminal conviction also limits an individual’s chances of social mobility, which results in them becoming dependent on the state.

Congress Further Notes

On July 1st 2001, Portugal decriminalised drug use, acquisition and possession of illicit drugs when conducted for personal use as part of a comprehensive new policy. This quantity of personal use amounted to up to 10 days’ supply for personal use. The policy also included a significant expansion in drug treatment, including methadone maintenance, to help dependent users get away from injecting heroin.

Congress Believes

There is a need for health professionals, parents and educators to acknowledge the fact that young people often engage in drug use, and at the very least will be exposed to drug use at some point in their lives. Drug use cannot be tackled by policy measures which are only aimed at controlling the supply of drugs. It is futile to only have supply reduction strategies in place of more cost-effective and evidence based investments in harm- reduction and education.

Congress Mandates

The Coiste Gnó to lobby for the decriminalisation of drugs in line with the Portuguese Model. USI Coiste Gnó should also lobby for investment into treatment and health facilities along with education about drug use and risk for young adults and those of school age.

Congress Further Mandates

The VP Welfare, and VP Campaigns (with the aid of the Coiste Gnó), to run information campaigns for students to educate them of the need for this reform and on safe drug use.

Congress Further Mandates

The VP Welfare to provide appropriate information and supports to MOs to best understand these issues, and to promote such campaigns in their own unions, and to appropriate bodies in their own institutions.

 

2022 WEL 8: Creation of a workshop to identify domestic abuse and red flags

Proposed by UCC Students’ Union

Comhdháil Notes with concern:

That domestic violence cases are rising at an alarming rate since the beginning of the pandemic with Ireland reporting a 24% increase since 2020 alone.

Comhdháil Further Notes:

That the creation of a workshop based off the model of the SafeTalk model could be beneficial in helping people recognize the signs of abuse in their own relationship while also providing tools on how to start a conversation with someone you are concerned about, how to start a conversation with someone to ask for help as well as providing information on how to seek help and get out of the relationship safely.

Comhdháil recognizes:

The work USI, Students’ Unions, Rape Crisis Centers and Networks have been doing over the decades to drive forward cultural change through sexual health awareness campaigns, consent education via consent workshops, offering disclosure training, coordinating rallies and protests to stand in solidarity with survivors and lobbying for policy development, both on a local and national level.

Comhdháil Therefore Mandates:

The Vice President for Welfare and the Vice President for Equality and Citizenship to coordinate a workshop like the SafeTalk workshops in conjunction with any relevant organisations to roll out nationwide.”

 

2022 WEL 11: Community Action Tenants Union

Proposed by UCC Students’ Union

Comhdháil Notes:

Community Action Tenants Union (CATU) Ireland is a union for communities and tenants, that is renters, council tenants, mortgage holders and people in emergency or precarious living situations. Over the past two years CATU has grown hugely as a union, successfully resisting evictions, defending the rights of its members, highlighting dereliction and the exploitation of landlords, and raising class consciousness amongst its membership and the wider population.

Comhdháil Also Notes:

Students make up a significant proportion of the population of renters across Ireland, and the housing crisis and access to safe, affordable and adequate accommodation is one of the most pressing issues for students today. Public services and community infrastructure are also critical to supporting students and the areas they are living in.

Comhdháil Further Notes:

The USI Executive, and in particular the VP Campaigns and VP Welfare, are already mandated to work with and support the establishment and growth of tenants unions. However, there is a need for more direct engagement with tenants unions through information sharing, supporting direct action and encouraging students to join tenants unions.

Comhdháil Believes:

The knowledge, experience and resources from CATU, as well as their strength as an active tenants union, could have huge benefits to student tenants and the student union movement as a whole, and vice versa.

Comhdháil Mandates:

The Vice President for Campaigns to investigate the feasibility of developing a partnership agreement between USI and CATU, with the aim of supporting and strengthening both unions, facilitating joining campaigns and actions, and providing students with support as tenants. If the Vice President for Campaigns concludes that such a partnership is feasible then they should go about developing such an agreement with the support of the USI Executive.

 

2022 WEL 12: Public Diagnostic Services

Proposed by USI VP Welfare

Congress Notes:

There is a distinct lack of publicly funded diagnostic services accessible to students who may need support for potential neurodivergencies. Currently students who are seeking diagnostic services for ADHD are forced to enroll in the private medical industry, which is often financially inaccessible for students, or be faced with long waiting lists.

Congress Mandates:

The USI Coiste Gnó to lobby for increased publicly funded accessible diagnostic services that are accessible to students, and to keep this in mind when developing submissions (e.g. the prebudget submission).

Congress also Mandates:

The VP Welfare and VP E&C to develop a resource pack for MOs of publicly funded diagnostic and disability services accessible to students that is to be reviewed and updated at the beginning  of each semester.

2022 WEL 13: Reflect – Supporting Students’ Union Officers

Proposed by Welfare Working Group

Comhdháil Notes:

That Students’ Union Training (SUT) and Students’ Union Top-Up Training (SUT+) are extremely beneficial and useful to Students’ Union Officers before the academic term begins. Sessions delivered during these training days allow Students’ Union Officers to receive detailed knowledge on topics relating to their briefs, gain insight around potential challenges that may arise and focus on what they would like to achieve in the year.

Comhdháil Notes with Concern

That Students’ Union Officers work in extremely stressful, highly pressurized and intense working conditions to adapt and react to the emerging issues around them.

Comhdháil Further Notes with Concern

That due to the nature of the workload many Students’ Union Officers are at risk of experiencing burnout or a loss of motivation.

Comhdháíl Believes

USI should facilitate and enable Students’ Union Officers to work at their best capacity and feel supported by offering tailored training wherever deemed necessary.

Comhdháil Therefore Mandates

The Vice President for Welfare with the support of the Regional Officers, to organise an event, in person or online, including the following topics, but not limited to; motivation, leadership, goal setting and re-prioritizing manifesto policies, self-care and wellbeing. The structure of the event should be planned in agreement with Welfare Working Group.

Repeals: 2021 UO 3

 

2021 WEL NC 1: Support Funds for Part-Time Students

Proposed by VP E&C

Congress notes:

That a number of support funds including the Fund for Student with Disabilities, the Maintenance Grant are only available for students studying on a full-time basis in recognised Higher Education Institutes.

Congress further notes:

That part-time students are not able to avail of the “free-fees” scheme.

Congress mandates:

The VP Academic Affairs, VP Welfare and VP Equality & Citizenship to campaign and lobby for support funds and the free fees scheme to be extended to include part-time students.

 

2021 WEL NC 2: Stim Room for ASD students

Proposed by VP BMW

Congress notes:

That some students find it hard to concentrate and integrate into the student body during lectures and exams due to environmental sensitivity, such as florescent lighting, overcrowding, heat temperature and distracting sounds.

Congress further notes:

That students internationally with conditions such as ASD (autism spectrum disorder) have benefited from stim rooms, which is a low cost resource that can be easily implemented into universities and institutes across the country.

Congress mandates:

VP Equality & Citizenship to investigate the feasibility of implementing this across all colleges in the country.

 

2021 WEL NC 3: Ask for Angela

Property of Congress

Congress notes:

That consent has become a point of mandatory understanding in society, particularly among the third level sector.

Congress notes:

That the concern for student safety within the community is of paramount importance also and student movements have an obligation to work with the local community wherever possible to ensure their safety.

Congress understands:

The Ask for Angela Campaign targets student social areas (ie bars, social settings, etc.) by offering a safe, easily implemented system to escape a situation that may not be safe for them to be in.

Congress applauds:

The work done across the country by Unions and USI around consent.

Congress mandates:

The Vice-President for Campaigns to work with the Vice-President for Welfare to roll out a national campaign to support, encourage and promote where possible a National Ask for Angela Campaign each year.

2021 WEL 3: Promoting Consent and Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment

Proposed by Vice President for Welfare

Congress notes with concern:

That sexual violence and harassment are still very prevalent issues in today’s society as reported through the findings of the Sexual Experiences Survey (2020), where:

  • 29% of females, 10% of males, and 28% of non-binary students reported non-consensual penetration by incapacitation, force or threat of force.
  • 29% of students said the perpetrator was a student at their college. Approximately 8% said the assault had taken place on campus.
  • 44% of all students reported experiencing non-consensual behaviour – sexual touching, attempted or completed oral, vaginal, or anal penetration.

Congress recognises:

The work USI, Students’ Unions, Rape Crisis Centres and Networks have been doing over the decades to drive forward cultural change through sexual health awareness campaigns, consent education via consent workshops, offering disclosure training, coordinating rallies and protests to stand in solidarity with survivors and lobbying for policy development, both on a local and national level.

Congress welcomes:

The progress made with the launch of the “Framework for Consent in Higher Education Institutions; Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive – Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions” in 2019 which has been overseen through the National Advisory Committee. Further advancements have been made in the academic year of 2020/2021 with the the development of the IUA Guidance for University Consent Framework, THEA PROPEL project and HEA Advisory Group on Gender-Based Violence aiming to develop best practices for HEIs through action plans, robust policies and effective procedures.

Congress therefore mandates:

The adoption of the USI Sexual Consent Strategy 2021.

Congress further mandates: The Vice President for Welfare and the Vice President for Equality and Citizenship to coordinate survivor support campaigns, alongside lobbying for a better legal system and support services. These survivor support campaigns should include toolkits for MOs with information on reporting and local and national supports available.

Congress repeals: WEL 19 – 14, 18 EM 3

2021 WEL 4: Regional Food Banks

Proposed by the Southern Region Working Group

Congress recognises:

That financial hardship is an issue many students experience during third level education. Students often work multiple part-time jobs, commute from their family homes to campus to save on rent costs or skip meals to save money. Eating healthily and having access to sufficient meals is extremely important for a person’s wellbeing.

Congress notes:

Setting  up a Food Bank requires you to rely on donations of products. Many organisations, including College Canteens, may throw out food at the end of the day for a number of reasons that include; being mislabeled, overproduced, are test -market items and/or products with short code dates. Most of the time this food is perfect to consume.

Congress further notes:

Some charities currently work with supermarkets to collect foods and give them out to those in need. With the current economic situation, and the lack of funding for third level students, students’ who are struggling financially may find Food Banks beneficial to them.

Congress mandates:

The Regional Vice Presidents to investigate and produce a guidance document to assist MO’s in setting up Food Banks. This guide should include information on external organisations that may be of help to MO’s.

Congress further mandates:

This guidance document should be discussed with local MO’s when it is being produced to get input on what is currently in place in MO’s. This should be updated and produced no later than October each year.

Congress therefore repeals: 2018 WEL 8

2021 WEL 5: Social Supports for Students During and Post-Covid-19

Proposed by Welfare Working Group

Congress notes:

That students have been hugely affected by the global pandemic with the closure of campuses and facilities, unable to engage fully with what their Higher Education Institute or Further Education College has to offer. Many students haven’t been able to connect with their classmates and feel a sense of belonging, which has negatively impacted on their mental health, wellbeing and overall student experience.

Congress recognises:

The importance of extra-curricular activities, such as clubs, societies, volunteering initiatives, social gatherings and networking opportunities that really add to the overall student experience.

Congress notes with concern:

The further negative knock-on effects Covid-19 will have on student wellbeing, including an increase in social anxiety, depression, further mental health difficulties and adapting to transitioning back to a more normal life and the business of campus life.

Congress mandates:

The Vice President for Welfare and the Executive Team to lobby the Department for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science to invest in peer-learning initiatives to be rolled out across the Island and provide social supports such as targeted wellbeing initiatives to support students during and post-Covid-19.

Congress further mandates:

The Vice President for Welfare to include themes around isolation, staying connected, supporting one another and the impacts of Covid-19 on student mental health in future wellbeing campaigns.

2021 WEL 6: Student wellbeing and engagement post COVID-19

Proposed By USI President

Congress recognises

That a lot of emphasis has been placed upon issues affecting student wellbeing and engagement as a result of COVID-19.

Congress believes

Many of the issues highlighted have been exacerbated by the pandemic but they will continue to exist post COVID-19. Issues such as assessment protocols, academic supports, timetabling, peer to peer engagements, social activities and student counselling supports have been spoken about at length due to the pandemic but ensuring these are accessible and resourced post COVID must be a priority.

Congress further believes

The development of the Student and Learner Wellbeing and Engagement Working Group, chaired by the USI President, is a useful starting point to address these issues however, it has a limited timeframe to achieve results to support students.

Congress Mandates

The USI President to Lobby the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science to establish a sustainable basis for the work of the Student and Learner Wellbeing and Engagement Working Group to exist post COVID-19. This work should be central to the work of DFHERIS and should involve all key stakeholders.

2021 WEL 7: Student Pregnancy Supports

Proposed by Welfare Working Group

Congress recognises:

The additional barriers student parents, students who are experiencing pregnancy and their partners endure when accessing education or progressing forward in their learning journey. Student pregnancies can be very stressful and challenging as a result of the lack of supports offered by their HEI or FE College during their pregnancy.

Congress further notes with concern:

That student parents, students who are pregnant and their partners are at a higher risk of dropping out of their course due to the lack of financial, emotional and academic supports available to them.

Congress mandates:

The Vice President for Welfare and Vice President for Equality & Citizenship to lobby for increased supports for student parents, students who are pregnant and for their partners.

Congress Further mandates:

The Vice President for Welfare to include information on the different options available during pregnancy, such as the HSE My Options and supports available to student parents, those who are pregnancy and their partners during future sexual health, awareness and guidance campaigns.

Congress also mandates:

The Vice President for Welfare to develop a toolkit for MOs to use as part of their local sexual health awareness and guidance campaigns including information on options available during pregnancy and supports available to student parents, students who are pregnant and their partners.

2021 WEL 8: USI Health Promotion Strategy 2021-2024

Proposed by the USI Vice President for Welfare

Congress notes:

The importance of having a streamlined health promotion strategy plan for USI as it provides a sense of direction and outlines measurable goals for the Vice President Welfare and USI to achieve and evaluate.

Congress mandates:

The adoption of the USI Health Promotion Strategy 2021-2024.

Congress further mandates:

The Vice President for Welfare to review the strategy regularly to provide progress reports to members of National Council and update the strategy accordingly if deemed necessary.

Congress repeals: 20 WEL 17 – ENACTED

2021 WEL 9: USI Grant Reform Position Paper 2021-2024

Proposed by Vice President for Welfare

Congress notes:

That many students struggling financially rely on the SUSI grant to access third level education. However, the SUSI grant does not accurately reflect the cost of living and does not provide the financial support that it was intended to do.

Congress further notes:

Students who are experiencing financial hardship are at risk of dropping out of their course, are likely to have increased mental health difficulties with anxiety, stress and depression or not attend third level education in the first instance.

Congress therefore mandates:

The adoption of the USI Grant Reform Position Paper 2021-2024.

Congress further mandates:

The Vice President for Welfare and the Vice President for Academic Affairs to review and update the Grant Reform Position Paper 2021-2024 annually to ensure it is up to date for lobbying purposes.

2021 WEL 12: Exam Destress Campaign

Proposed by WIT Students’ Union

Congress Notes:

Individual MO’s put a lot of work into destress campaigns around Exam times. As a national Union, USI organises campaigns throughout the year that aid/support these local campaigns.

Congress Believes:

It is imperative for USI to engage in campaigns that promote positive wellbeing among the student body, especially around exam periods. Exam periods are peak stress times for students and many will experience increased anxiety and stress. Students should be educated on what stress is, know the signs of stress and anxiety and should be able to reach out for support when needed both on a national and local level.

Congress Mandates:

The Vice Presidents’ for Welfare, Academic Affairs and Regions to roll out a national Exam Destress Campaign. This campaign should be run towards the end of semester 1 and semester 2 when exams are taking place.

Congress further Mandates:

USI to provide resources to Officers to help with these campaigns. This can include, but not limited to, a stress pack, booklet, graphics, information on support services etc.

Congress Repeals: 12 WEL 5 12 WEL 14 (Enacted)

 

EM 20 – 1: Support for student renters during Covid-19

Proposed by QUBSU

Congress acknowledges:

The Union of Students in Ireland’s support for Rent Strikes carried out across Ireland to protest universities who increased rents in campus accommodations, along with standing with those campaigning for an end to the housing crisis in Ireland, north and south.

Congress also acknowledges:

That rent strikes have been organised by tenants unions and students collectively across Britain and Ireland to fight universities and private landlords who are exploiting student renters during a global health emergency and incoming financial crisis.

Congress notes:

The demands laid out by these tenants unions, groups of student renters, and NUS-USI to ensure the protection of student renters during the Covid-19 pandemic which include:

  • An immediate Rent Suspension during the Covid-19 crisis with no subsequent repayments, with this backdated to cover the month of March to provide security for those out of work and financially insecure during this crisis.
  • An 18 month freeze on rent increases to protect current and future students against landlords who may opportunistically exploit the current and coming crises.
  • Early contract termination without penalty as students cannot be held to ransom over rent for a house that they cannot live in while this crisis is ongoing.
  • A ban on all Covid-19 caused evictions, to protect the most vulnerable students during this period of uncertainty.
  • Clarity from Higher and Further Education regarding plans for the 2020/21 academic year to allow students to make decisions early relating to their accommodation.Guidance for those students who still need to access any belongings left behind after promptly leaving their accommodation early due to government Covid-19 guidelines.
Congress supports:

The above demands laid out by organisations working directly with student renters.

Therefore, congress mandates:

The USI Executive to support the establishment and growth of tenants unions in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis

Congress further mandates:

The USI Executive, primarily the VP Campaigns and VP Welfare to work with and support students and tenants’ unions in their campaigning and lobbying efforts, including rent strikes in the form of withholding rents from either university campus accommodation and/or private letting agents and landlords.

 

20 WEL 1: SUSI Eligibility Review

Congress notes

That students have been excluded by the criteria of SUSI. Many aspects of the application restrain students from receiving adequate financial support. The criteria is outdated and does not reflect the reality of struggling students.

Congress further notes

That BTEA (Back to Education Allowance), distances, and other forms of eligibility can be the direct cause of people dropping out of college.

Congress therefore mandates

USI to lobby for the eligibility criteria to be changed to suit students and lobby for radical reform with the support of relative organisations.”

 

 

20 WEL 2: PrEP Accessibility

Proposed by TU Dublin SU

Congress notes

PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) is a drug taken to prevent the contraction of HIV and is now available in Ireland.

Congress further notes

That PrEP is primarily aimed towards the MSM (men who have sex with men) group and meanwhile HIV does not discriminate against who it targets and can be contracted by anyone. The accessibility of the drug is also very limited in the sense of who can and cannot access this for free.

Congress notes with concern

That studies in countries where PrEP is available has shown an increase in the likes of Syphilis, Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia and that this is due to the lack of sexual health education that goes with the drug.

Congress therefore mandates

The Vice President for Welfare in conjunction with the Executive to lobby the government for increased accessibility of PrEP for all and furthermore to campaign to promote education of still using protection even while on PrEP.

Repeals: 2017 WEL 18

 

20 WEL 3: Celebrating and Supporting Recovery Through Harm Reduction and Support

Congress notes

Addiction is not defined solely with substance use/misuse. That an effective way of reducing issues around drug use lies not solely with anti-drug policies rather also include harm reduction and the promotion of recovery.

Congress further notes

However, people living with addiction have overcome huge mountains with the current system that doesn’t offer adequate support and should be celebrated in all ways whenever and wherever.

Congress recognises

The work done by USI with regards to harm reduction and the MO’s from around the

country on some amazing work done to reduce harm.

Congress therefore mandates

The Vice President for Welfare to encourage celebration for anyone going through recovery, adopt a harm reduction policy and help Students’ Unions set up forums for people to celebrate and share their experiences and living with addiction.

Congress further mandates

The Vice President for Welfare to organize a Harm Reduction roadshow that is to include study drugs and other forms of addiction recovery (such as gambling and others).

Repeals: 2018 WEL 4

 

 

20 WEL 4: Student Health and Wellbeing Campaign

Proposed by Maynooth Students’ Union

Congress notes

Currently USI runs multiple campaigns during the year, relating to various issues (eg. SHAG week/Re:charge/etc.)

There are many mandates in the USI policy book in relation to the running of a number of campaigns relating to different Welfare issues, namely:

  • WEL 19 – 4 Undetectable = Untransmittable
  • WEL 19 9 Second-hand Smoke
  • WEL 19 7 Excessive alcohol consumption campaign for secondary and third level
  • WEL 19 13 Men’s Mental Health
  • 2018 WEL 4 : Drug awareness and harm reduction campaign
  • 2018 WEL 11 : Smoking Cessation Campaign
  • 2018 WEL 12 : Abusive Relationships, Sexual Violence & Harassment
  • 17 WEL 18 PrEP Availability in Ireland
  • 17 WEL 22 Social Inclusion Campaign
  • 17 WEL 25 Personal Safety Campaign during Freshers’ Week
  • 15 WE 25 Gambling
  • 14 WEL 10 WATER SAFETY
  • 12 WEL 3 SEXUAL HEALTH WEBSITE
  • 12 WEL 5 EXAM STRESS PACKS
  • 12 WEL 6 DRINK RESPONSIBLY CAMPAIGN
  • 12 WEL 7 SUICIDE PREVENTION CAMPAIGN
  • 12 WEL 14 EXAM STRESS CAMPAIGN
  • 09 WEL 2 ABORTION RIGHTS CAMPAIGN
Congress applauds

The effectiveness of the #BreakTheBarriers campaign (a campaign that compiles multiple issues faced by students in relation to accessing education ie. Accommodation, Fees, Grants, etc.)

Congress notes with concern

That coupled with the numerous campaigns that are run locally in MOs, the various campaigns that USI run may get lost among the many campaigns that students see during the year.

Congress believes

That a generic health campaign, promoting all aspects of health (physical, sexual, mental, etc.) should replace the specific campaigns, and be rolled out across all MO campuses during the year.

That a Student Health and Wellbeing campaign that takes into account the many issues related to Welfare that students’ face, and brings them under an umbrella campaign, would be the best way to ensure that the Welfare related campaign activities of USI are identifiable on a national level.

Congress further notes

That some campaigns avail of funding from external bodies (such as the HSE) and it is unknown how the combination of multiple campaigns may effect this funding

Congress mandates

The VP Welfare alongside the Welfare Working Group to investigate the feasibility of running a single, year long Student Health and Wellbeing Campaign, which incorporates the many issues under the remit of Welfare.

The VP Welfare to use student feedback to decipher how the campaign should be run.

Congress further mandates

That should the VP Welfare and the Welfare Working Group deem the running of a single, year long Student Health and Wellbeing Campaign feasible, that a mandate will be put to Congress Floor at the next Congress. This mandate shall be to repeal all mandates in relation to the running of welfare campaigns, and to replace these mandates with a single mandate relating to a year long Student Health and Wellbeing Campaign

 

20 WEL 5: SHAG packs

Proposed by: Vice President for Welfare.

Congress notes

USI distributes approx. 30,000 SHAG packs every year to students in Ireland during the annual SHAG campaign.

Congress further believes

This is a huge opportunity to get crucial sexual health information out to thousands of students across the Island of Ireland.

Congress mandates

The Vice President for Welfare in conjunction with the Vice President for Campaigns and theVice President for Equality and Citizenship, to have the following, but not limited to, in SHAG packs:

  • Condom and Lube
  • Support Services
  • How to put on a condom and make a dental dam
  • Consent info
  • Abortion info

Repeals: WEL 1

 

 

 

20 WEL 6: Smoking cessation

Proposed by the Vice President for Welfare USI

Congress notes

According to the HSE, Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland with almost 6,000 smokers dying each year from tobacco related diseases.

Congress also notes

Despite a number of campaigns run by USI, HSE and DRUGS.ie on the dangers of drug use, more could be done to highlight the dangers of smoking tobacco cigarettes and electronic cigarettes and how addictive they are.

Congress believes

That educating students about the dangers of smoking regular tobacco cigarettes and electronic cigarettes may lead to a decrease in use.

Congress also believes

That there should be designated smoking zones on campuses across the country.

Congress therefore mandates

The Vice President for Welfare to carry out a national campaign on smoking cessation and the dangers of smoking.

Congress Also Mandates

The Union of Students in Ireland to mark ‘World No Tobacco Day’ each year.

Congress further mandates

The Vice President for Welfare to support MO’s in their efforts to introduce designated smoke zones across their campuses and any other smoking cessation initiatives.

Repeals: 18 WEL 11, 19 WEL 9

 

20 WEL 7: Drugs and alcohol Harm Reduction Campaign

Proposed by USI Welfare Working Group

Congress notes

Education for third-level students is crucial in terms of informing students about drugs and alcohol, and the consequences taking them may have on their future.

Congress further notes

That alcohol and drug misuse are still huge issues among the student population. According to the National Student Drugs Survey 82% of students have tried illegal drugs The National Alcohol Diary Survey showed that almost two-thirds of 18-24 year-old drinkers consumed six or more standard drinks on a typical single drinking session (anything over 4 drinks is considered binge drinking).

Congress mandates

The Vice President for Welfare to roll-out a national campaign on drugs and/or alcohol using harm reduction messaging. This campaign can be in collaboration with organisations such as, Irish Secondary-Level Students’ Union (ISSU), the Health Service Executive (HSE) and any other suitable organisations.

Congress further mandates

That the Vice President for Welfare supports MO’s in writing local drug and alcohol policy, and offers training on drugs / alcohol awareness, and substance abuse to Students’ Union officers at a time most suitable.

Repeals: 19 WEL 8, 19 WEL 7, 18 WEL 4, 12 WEL 4, 12 WEL 6

 

20 WEL 8: Mental Health and casework training for Students’ Unions officers

Proposed by USI Welfare Working Group

Congress notes

The majority of Students’ Union Officers are presented with casework on a daily basis. Therefore the skills of how to manage a student in distress and boundaries are essential.

Congress believes

Everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention and that Students’ Unions should to be equipped with the skills to intervene if needed.

Congress mandates

The Vice President for Welfare to organise the following training, where and when possible, such as, but not limited to, SafeTalk, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), Casework and boundaries training. These training sessions are to take place in a way that’s most suitable to the Students’ Union officers and informed by the relevant National Council working groups.

Repeals: 17 WEL 3, 17 WEL 10, 14 WEL 3, 14 WEL 4, 14 WEL 16

 

20 WEL 9 Mental Health Awareness Days

Proposed by USI Welfare Working Group

Congress notes

There are many mental health awareness days that take place every year, that USI recognise and support.

Congress mandates

The Vice President for Welfare to coordinate an action, in partnership with relevant organisations, to mark the following, but not limited to, mental health awareness days such as International Men’s Day, Suicide prevention day and World Mental Health Day. These actions can be, but not limited to, creating a toolkit for MO’s, sharing a graphic of support, or to organise an on or off-campus action.

Repeals: 19 WEL 13, 12 WEL 7

 

20 WEL 11 Student Assistance fund

Proposed by the Vice President Border, Midlands and Western region

Congress notes

The Student Assistance Fund is an extremely important resource for students to access if they are in financial difficulty. Often it can be the difference between someone staying in college or dropping out.

Congress mandates

The Vice President for Welfare and Vice President for Equality and Citizenship to lobby for: The SAF to be extended to postgraduate students The Vice President for Welfare to assist Member Organisations in their lobbying of their institutions to provide the applications for the SAF in the most accessible way for students, whether this be online or otherwise.

The Vice President for Welfare to work with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to seek inclusion for these students so they may be eligible to apply for the SAF. As currently students participating on a second qualification at the same or a lower level are not eligible for SAF funding.

The Vice President Equality and Citizenship to work towards the Student Assistance Fund being accessible to all students regardless of whether they are in receipt of SUSI or not across Institutions in Ireland.

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.

The USI Executive team to campaign for increases and oppose any suggested cuts to the SAF.

Repeals: 18 AA 20, 18 WEL 2, 18 WEL 9, 17 WEL 16, 15 WEL 2, 14 WEL 7

 

20 WEL 12 JAM Card

Proposed by DCUSU

Congress understands

That those with a communication barrier are often reluctant or unable to tell others about their condition. JAM Card allows people with a learning difficulty, autism or communication barrier tell others they need ‘Just A Minute’ discreetly and easily.

Congress notes

The recent success of the implementation of the JAM Card in DCU by the partnership approach taken by DCUSU and the University which has had a positive effect on the welfare of those students who sometimes may need an extra few minutes in certain situations.

Congress mandates

The USI Vice President for Equality & Citzenship to assist member organisations in the implementation of the JAM Card on their campuses to widen the accessibility of their services to their students and support the JAM Card iniative as a whole.

Congress further mandates

The USI Exec Team to undergo Jam Card training.

 

20 WEL 13 International Student Financial Support

NUI Galway Students’ Union

Congress notes

The huge financial struggle International students face when attending third level institutions across the Island of Ireland with the increase in International Student fees year on year.

Congress further notes

The lack of financial supports available for students who are classified as International Students, with many leaving third level education with huge student loans or debt.

Congress therefore mandates

The VP Welfare and the VP Academic Affairs to research what financial supports are available for International Students across HEIs and FEs on the Island of Ireland.

Congress further mandates

The VP Welfare and VP Academic Affairs to lobby for a national financial aid fund to support International Students.

 

20 WEL 14 Disordered Eating Support

NUI Galway Students’ Union

Congress notes

That students fall into a demographic who are often affected by disordered eating.

Congress further notes

The lack of information for third level students around disordered eating and the stigma of shame and silence this creates.

Congress notes with concern

The lack of visibility and funding for services and supports that are aimed at those with disordered eating available within HEIs, FEs and the wider community.

Congress mandates

The VP for Welfare and the VP for Campaigns to work with relevant organisations to develop a campaign resource pack for MO’s to utilise, as well as creating a survey that can be used as a lobbying tool for the USI.

WEL 19 – 3: Investment in Mental Health Care in Rural and West of Ireland

Proposed By GMIT SU

Congress Notes:

Mental Health supports and preventative ongoing care provisions are lacking in Ireland, leaving many without adequate, if any supports especially in rural and the west of Ireland. As well as this, gaps in the system and miss-information has seen students wrongly ‘transferred’ to services which aren’t capable/exist for that purpose.

Congress Further Notes:

Ongoing Preventative Mental Health services are necessary for general wellbeing and not just for emergency cases where focus currently lies, increased investment in preventative services can help us stop of the loss of student lives in disadvantaged and under resourced areas, these people are the future of Ireland.

Congress Recognises:

The need for more investment and resources in early and ongoing care and awareness, with this also assisting in reducing the pressure on emergency services

Congress Mandates:

The USI Welfare Officer to lobby for ongoing Mental Health services in the west and rural Ireland inclusive of non-emergency services as well as bringing awareness to the current situation in order to highlight the need, and aid the lobbying for this investment.

 

WEL 19 – 4: Undetectable = Untransmittable

Proposed By Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union

Congress notes:

That there has been a significant increase in HIV diagnoses within Ireland in recent years. The level of new HIV diagnoses is the highest on record to date with at least one diagnosis being issued every 18 hours on average. The stigma surrounding HIV in Ireland prevents us from tackling the epidemic and lowering HIV diagnoses.

Congress further notes:

The “PARTNER 1” and “PARTNER 2” studies showed that if someone living with HIV, who are virally suppressed from antiretroviral therapy (ART) medication, cannot transmit HIV to a sexual partner. This is known as “Undetectable = Untransmittable,” or “U=U”.

Congress mandates:

The VP for Welfare to organise a national campaign, which would be brought to every MO, to highlight and educate students on the term “U=U,” or “Undetectable = Untransmittable.” This campaign should emphasise the increasing diagnoses of HIV in Ireland and highlight the benefits of knowing your HIV status.

Congress further mandates:

The VP for Welfare to produce a document containing information about STI checks, including, but not limited to, information regarding STI’s, how, where and when to get STI checks, and how much they cost.

 

 

WEL 19 – 5: Local Specialised Sexual Health Services.

Proposed By Athlone IT SU

Congress notes:

The importance of students having local access to specialised sexual health services.

Congress further notes:

The student cohort is a demographic most at risk of obtaining sexual health infections/diseases.

Congress mandates:

THE VP for Welfare and the officer board to lobby the HSE and government to provide local access to Specialised Sexual Health Services in every town/city with a third level institution.

 

2018 WEL 12: Abusive Relationships, Sexual Violence & Harassment

Reapproved 2021

Proposed by the Vice President for Welfare

Congress Notes

The suffering that is caused by the many levels of abusive relationships, sexual violence and harassment.

Congress Recognises

That several national organisations are doing work in the area of domestic violence, sexual harassment, violence, and emotional abuse, and the USI should build partnerships with them in order to ensure students are part of their target audiences moving forward.

Congress Mandates

The VP Welfare to roll out a national information campaign that is inclusive of all genders and none around abusive relationships, dating abuse, sexual violence and harassment in a similar fashion to the the “Too into You” campaign.

Congress Also Mandates

The VP Welfare & VP Campaigns to create a toolkit for MO’s on sexual harassment to be disseminated alongside an awareness campaign.

Congress Further Mandates

The VP Welfare and VP Equality & Citizenship to develop a partnership with the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) in their project work nationally to end sexual violence and harassment at third level.

Repeals: 17 EQ 4

 

2018 WEL 15 : Cyberbullying Policy

Proposed by Welfare Working Group
Reapproved 2021

Congress Notes

The adoption of the USI Cyberbullying Policy which was adopted at congress 2017.

Congress also Notes

How quickly issues change in the cyber community and how USI policy must be kept up to date to reflect that.

Congress Mandates

For the adoption of a new updated Cyber Bullying policy which will be reviewed every 12 months.

Congress also mandates

The deletion of the older version of the cyberbullying policy.

 

12 WEL 3: Sexual Health Website

Congress notes:

There is large amount of paper material distributed in conjunction with sexual health campaigns.

Congress recognizes:

The lack of a one-stop shop for sexual health information and support services on line.

Congress mandates the Welfare Vice President:

To develop an all-inclusive web site which will contain relevant information about sexual health that can be used in conjunction with sexual health campaigns.

 

09 WEL 1: Emergency Contraception

Congress notes:

Dependant on location, time of week, travel plans, unforeseen circumstances (i.e. sex without consent or awareness) etc. that availing of a doctors appointment for aforesaid prescription may not be possible, and that the efficacy of EC decreases significantly over a 72-hour period.

Congress believes:

That people are entitled to complete control over their sexual reproduction and fertility, and that freer availability of ECs in Ireland is essential to this intrinsic right.

Congress welcomes:

Research carried out on the effects of the ECP introduction in Britain by the British Journal of Medicine that reported: a 10% decrease in the amount of teenage pregnancies with only a 2% increase in those using the ECP following its over-the-counter introduction no reduction in the usage of other contraceptive methods

And the research document prepared for this debate on the myths, realities and physiological & health impacts of the different ECPs by UCC’s Welfare Officer, Keith O’ Brien.

Congress mandate:

The USI Welfare Officer to co-ordinate with relevant groups to provide more comprehensive information on the different forms of EC.

 

 

09 WEL 2: Abortion Rights Campaign

Congress notes:

That USI is mandated to lobby the government and other relevant bodies to develop greater access to abortion services for all women within the state (06 WEL 6: Abortion).

Congress further notes:

That USI’s involvement in this debate in the past (SPUC vs. Grogan) led to the changing of legislation so that information about abortion could be distributed freely in the state.

Congress recognises:

That in many student unions abroad and indeed in many organisations worldwide the issue of abortion is viewed as an issue of equality and women’s rights .

Congress further recognises:

That the issue is one of concern for Welfare Officers around the country.

Congress acknowledges:

The establishment of the Safe and Legal (in Ireland) Abortion Rights Campaign which aims to end the hypocrisy of exiling women in crisis pregnancy that choose to have an abortion. The campaign includes various strands, including a litigation strand, a public awareness strand and a national and international advocacy strand.

Congress mandates:

The Welfare and Equality Officer to work with the Safe and Legal (in Ireland) Abortion Rights Campaign to once again make this issue a priority for Irish Women.

Congress further mandates:

The Welfare and Equality Officer to raise awareness of the Safe and Legal (in Ireland) Abortion Rights Campaign to USI members and to support the campaign in any of its actions.