Wednesday, 8 November 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
263. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 21 who was refused a grant by South Dublin County Council on the grounds of income; and the reason they were refused the grant. [36749/06]
Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin): The decision on eligibility for third level grants is a matter for the relevant local authority or VEC. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except, in exceptional cases, where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is desired.
264. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Education and Science if her attention has been drawn to the delays in the processing of grants for third level students in Waterford; and if she has had or intends to have discussions with the relevant stakeholders involved to ensure that students from low income families do not have to resort to taking out loans to pay for their education until their grant is processed, with some eligible students even being forced out of college due to not having the financial resources at their disposal in the interim period. [36750/06]
Minister for Education and Science (Ms Hanafin): My Department funds four maintenance grant schemes for third level and further education students. These are the Higher Education Grants Scheme, the Vocational Education Committees’ Scholarships Scheme, the Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees and the Maintenance Grants Scheme for Students attending Post Leaving Certificate Courses. The Higher Education Grants Scheme is administered by the Local Authorities. The other three schemes are administered by the Vocational Education Committees. The process of assessing eligibility for third level or further education grants is a matter for the relevant local authority or VEC. I am not aware of any specific delays being experienced by third level students in the Waterford. Among the factors which give rise to delays in processing applications is where the administering body is awaiting further information/ documentation from applicants, or applicants have failed to submit complete application forms.
My Department in recognition of the importance of the timely provision of payment to eligible students is engaged in on-going consultations with the Irish Vocational Education Association and the County and City Managers’ Association with a view to enhancing the existing arrangements and ensure the earlier processing of applications and the making of payments to eligible students. In this regard, a working group with representatives from both Associations was established last year. The broad terms of reference of this group is to examine on-going operational issues with the current system of administration of the schemes. Issues in relation to the early payments of grants to eligible students are a priority for the group.
The Deputy will be aware that in accordance with the commitment in the Agreed Programme for Government I plan to introduce a single unified scheme of maintenance grants for students in higher education. This will, I believe, provide for a more coherent administration system which will facilitate consistency of application, improved client accessibility and ensure the timely delivery of grants to those who need them most.
The arrangements to be put in place will involve clearly defined targets for the delivery of a quality and timely service to applicants for maintenance grants, including the expeditious payment of grants to applicants who comply with the terms of the schemes. The arrangements for the future administration will, as I have previously indicated, be provided for in a new statutory framework through a Student Support Bill, which is currently being drafted.
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