Seanad debates

Friday, 12 February 2021

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


10:30 am

Photo of Annie HoeyAnnie Hoey (Labour) | Oireachtas source

I will bounce through a number of issues today as quickly as I can. The first is about students travelling for practical laboratories. A number of students have contacted me because they are concerned about bringing Covid-19 into their homes. On-campus laboratories are still mandatory for students completing courses with a practical element, which has left students throughout the country who are back in their family homes or in counties other than their place of study left in the position of having either to travel on lengthy public transport journeys or take lifts with family and friends. I spoke to a man who drives his daughter from Sligo to Limerick because he does not want her going on public transport.

Many are concerned that while they may take every precaution possible at an individual level, they will be at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 while on campus and bringing it home to their family or rented accommodation. Many who have contacted me have asked why they cannot have their laboratories grouped together towards the end of the year, in a few months, when it is hoped there will be lower rates of infection. This is causing an awful lot of stress for these students and their families.

Another matter that has been brought my attention by students and their parents is the ongoing issue of having to pay large fees for student accommodation on campus which they cannot then access because they have been instructed to stay at home. Many people have prepaid for this year or this semester. I know that while the private companies that run these accommodation facilities are not to blame for the ongoing lockdown, many are benefiting quite handsomely from students who have prepaid for accommodation they cannot now access. I ask that the Minister would do all he can to compel these companies, through the colleges if needs be, to give students and their families a break on their fees next year for accommodation services. This has been an incredibly tough year for students and the families who help them to cover the costs. They are being asked to pay for services they simply cannot access. This really is not fair.

The last issue I wish to raise is around transgender healthcare and transgender children. I do not know if Senators saw the noteworthy article yesterday in Transgender children are being referred to transgender healthcare that simply does not exist. The gender identity adolescent service that was situated in Crumlin children's hospital is no longer receiving further referrals, according to the Transgender Equality Network of Ireland, TENI. A long-awaited report came out in December and one of the recommendations was that psychological supports for those under 18 should be provided and delivered by the Irish health service rather than in the UK, as was previously the situation. This has come about because of the failure of the HSE to develop and implement a proper multidisciplinary team to support the provision of care for young transgender people in Ireland. It is concerning now that young transgender people will be referred to a service that simply will not exist for a number of years, which means they will eventually end up transitioning into the adult service. As we know, that adult service is also woefully lacking, with many transgender people having to travel abroad to access the care they need. I ask the Leader to raise this with the Minister.


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