I thank the Deputy for her kind wishes, which I sincerely appreciate. I thank her also for raising this extremely important issue. At the outset, while it is a statement of the obvious, it is important to say that a lot of the issues affecting students are part of the broader housing challenges that we face as a society, and these are challenges the Government is committed to resolving. The Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, is leading on our behalf with our new Housing for All strategy, which involves all Government Departments stepping up to the plate and doing everything we possibly can to increase housing supply.
We have taken a number of actions, working with students and, indeed, with the Deputy and this House on proposals that have come forward to try to improve the situation. For example, the Deputy would have supported legislation and would have introduced legislation to ask us to change the rules around deposits for students where students were being asked to pay, in my view, ridiculous levels of up-front deposits. We changed the law on that together, as an Oireachtas, and those changes have come in. The second thing we were asked to do was to change the notice periods so students would only have to give 28 days notice if they had to give up accommodation, for whatever reason, and we did that together as well. The third thing we were asked to do was to change the borrowing frameworks to make sure institutes of technology and technological universities, including colleges in the Deputy’s region such as Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, could start to access finance for the first time and to borrow. We have made that change in Housing for All and perhaps we can get into that in more detail shortly. We have also increased the student assistance fund, which can be used for students to meet bills they cannot otherwise afford, including rent, and we have put a record amount of funding into that student assistance fund.
We introduced a circular or, to be specific, the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, introduced a circular in regard to making sure student accommodation is used for just that purpose of student accommodation. I am sure the Deputy and I can both agree that the snide, flippant and sarcastic comments of a senior official in recent days really showed a lack of understanding of the seriousness of that situation. Our circular is very clear in what we want to do and expect to do in that regard. The changes we made in the budget yesterday in regard to the non-adjacent grant will also help many students to see an increase in their grant of up to €2,000 as a result of the distance rules.
There is more that we want to do and more that we are doing, and I will get into that in my supplementary response.