The announcement last week that students would be cut from the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) from September 7th – before all other workers in the country – was both unfair and financially painful for college-goers.
After the Irish Daily Mail reported on an unnamed government minister making comments about students “lying in bed and enjoying the PUP grant” a few weeks ago, it was clear that cuts could well have been on the horizon.
Although the comments were heavily condemned by the Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) – as well as being widely criticised by students – it is clear that this backlash was not sufficient to divert unwanted attention towards students.
But despite the claims from Harris that students would not be targeted, last week demonstrated that students have been separated from other groups in society.
There is simply no excuse for removing students from the PUP scheme before everyone else in the country.
The government argued in its economic plan that the cut was “in line with normal circumstances where students do not qualify for unemployment payments while at college”.
Firstly, there is nothing normal about the current situation – we are living through a pandemic where students have been hit hard and a large number have lost their jobs.
Secondly, if the government’s fairly meagre excuse were true, why have students been allowed to avail of PUP for over a year?
The reason is that many students need to work to get through College – making them workers. The fact that they are also students should not bar them from availing of the same benefits that other workers in the country get.
Like everyone else, students have sacrificed a lot this past year. Taking them off the PUP before everyone else – while they still wait for vaccinations or struggle to make ends meet because of loss of part-time jobs – is an ungrateful and cruel move by the government.