VP Welfare Candidates 2016

So what have your VP Welfare hopefuls have to say for themselves in the last day of elections? We found out…

We’ll update as we receive more responses…

JESSICA ELDER

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A fun fact about yourself?

I’m less than 5 months away from becoming a fully-qualified nurse and can actually play the bagpipes pretty well!

In your opinion, what are the three most significant welfare issues a student experiences at university?

Maintaining your health, whether that be your physical, emotional or sexual health can have a major influence on your time at university. These health factors can be impacted by other issues such as finance, anxiety, disabilities or homesickness, to name a few. Lack of financial stability for students at queens can lead to extreme stress that can be avoided with the right campaign, signposting and new ideas! Finance is becoming a much more talked about subject and this issue needs to be addressed now. If elected, I will ensure the welfare of students is a priority for all at Queen’s.

What have you learned from past mistakes in the welfare office?

I think there may have been occasions when welfare officers have been prevented from pursuing ideas due to red tape and lack of support from the university. This is beyond their control. Whilst it’s important to highlight mistakes and learn from these, we should also focus on really positive activities and campaigns that have went on, such as Think Out Loud campaign and Are ye well? that benefit students and make sure that these continue. Student engagement is key in promoting and improving student welfare. If elected, I will improve massively on this with out of the box, creative and interactive campaigns that insure student involvement is as high as we can get it! The Union is for students, we need to hear their voice! I will give everything to increasing engagement as welfare cannot continue to grow and better without it.

If you had to pick ONE thing on your manifesto to offer students, what would it be?

I am a committed individual who is passionate about ensuring all the welfare issues they face are dealt with! I couldn’t simply pick one off my manifesto! If elected I will lobby to increase sexual health clinic hours and the number of care call sessions available to students. I will improve financial stability within the student body by facilitating students in applying for support funds and providing them with a finance week (including a part time jobs fair) to improve work/life balance as well as making it easier for students that want or need a part time job to get one.

JULIE-ANN MCCOOK

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A fun fact about yourself?

My eyes change colour, usually when I’m not feeling well.

In your opinion, what are the three most significant welfare issues a student experiences at university?

Of course there are more issues than I’m probably even aware of, but overall I think the main ones (and in no particular order) are mental issues, money troubles and peer pressure. Even though university is of course an amazing experience, it is unique to each individual and can even be hard to adjust to, especially in these areas I’ve mentioned. Its important that students know they’re not alone in feeling negatively about some of their experiences and that we support them.

What have you learned from past mistakes in the welfare office?

I’ve worked with Chloe this year as a member of her Student Welfare Action Group and would have to say she’s done (and will continue to do until July) an amazing job and has really raised the bar for the next Welfare officer. One possible mistake or problem I found though was engaging with students through events which should have been better attended than they perhaps were. To improve upon this, from the start I’d be making students aware that welfare issues are always on the table, and admitting that you have a problem isn’t a sign of weakness but true strength, which all goes back to my ‘elephants in the room’ election campaign. In terms of events I’d be publicising them well in advance and offer incentives to students for attending, like extra entries into the Welfare Prize Fund, because the more students who are involved will hopefully mean more students who will get help if in difficulty and return to have a great time here.

What have you learned from past mistakes in the welfare office?

Oh that’s a tough decision, I have so much packed in there! Seeing as I’ve already kind of mentioned it and I’m sure some people are curious about it, I’ll go for my Welfare Fund. What makes it different from the existing support funds at Queen’s is that any student will be eligible to enter regardless of whether they’re postgrad, have more than £20 in the bank, or aren’t originally from NI or the UK. It would offer students the opportunity to receive prizes like heating vouchers, grocery vouchers, travel tickets, or even to have their rent paid for the month. It’ll be funded from a few sources such as skimming off my own salary (after taxes of course), my budget, and donations from local businesses, and will hopefully show students how dedicated the SU is to their well-being.


SHANNON DOWNEY

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A fun fact about yourself?

My fun fact is that I am the biggest Lord of the Rings nerd you will ever meet.

In your opinion, what are the three most significant welfare issues a student experiences at university?

There are lots of welfare issues that students face but the three that I have come across the most are poor student housing, student poverty and mental health issues. I plan to tackle all these issues if elected. No student should have to live in a crap house and worry about money every single day. There is still stigma around mental health issues but I plan to continue work to break this and help students get the help they need.

What have you learned from past mistakes in the welfare office?

There has been a lot of great work done by past welfare officers but there is always room for improvement. Poor student housing needs tackled once and for all – I plan to do this through an SU run landlord accreditation scheme and by informing students of their tenancy rights. International student support at Queen’s is abysmal and I will lobby the University to fix this and to stop ignoring the needs of their international students. I would like to tackle the issue of consent and raise awareness of this on campus. This union needs to be accessible to more students and I will work towards increasing student engagement. In a time where students are facing continuous cuts from the University and the government, the welfare officer needs to stand up for the rights of students. I will do that if elected.

If you had to pick ONE thing on your manifesto to offer students, what would it be?

If I could pick one thing off my manifesto it’s the landlord accreditation scheme. This is such an important issue – it is ridiculous that landlords are getting away with cheating students out of money. Terrible housing will lead to a multitude of other problems such as financial problems, physical and mental health issues. We need to stop letting dodgy landlords walk all over students. Accreditation schemes like the one I have proposed have had amazing success in other universities in the UK and I have already had some contact with similar schemes who would like to help out in setting this up at Queen’s SU.

 

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