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Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Gordon Lyons has welcomed the news that over 300 students studying at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) are each to receive a £500 Covid Disruption Payment.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds made the announcement last week that every student from the UK or EU currently enrolled on a full-time higher education course in Northern Ireland will receive the one-off discretionary payment, in recognition of the disruption they have suffered as a result of the pandemic.

Welcoming the payment, Minister Lyons said: “I am very aware that all students have experienced significant disruption since the onset of COVID-19 and I welcome this payment, which will help with some of the challenges they have experienced since the start of the pandemic.”

The Minister continued: “CAFRE has worked hard to ensure the safety of all its staff and students since the outset of COVID-19, introducing a range of interventions, including moving a significant proportion of its learning online. This has been a stressful time for many of our students and this payment will go some way to recognising the disruption and uncertainty that many have faced over the past year.”

The Minister concluded: “CAFRE has a well-deserved reputation as the leading provider of professional and technical agri-food sector qualifications in Northern Ireland and is celebrated throughout the wider agri-food industry for turning out highly-skilled graduates who are job ready. It is therefore vitally important that we continue to support our students in their education and training and recognise their future contribution to Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector."

Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “I was pleased announce last week that almost 40,000 students in higher education in Northern Ireland would receive the £500 Covid Disruption Payment. I also announced more support for students to address digital poverty, financial hardship and for mental health provision. These additional resources will help higher education institutions, including CAFRE, target financial support at those students who are most in need.

“I have listened to the many concerns raised with me by students, their representative bodies, family members, educators and institutions and will continue to do all I can to help them regain the learning experience they deserve.”

The Covid Disruption Payments will be issued to students by the end of March.