Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has welcomed the Taoiseach’s acceptance during Leaders Questions in the Dáil today that the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) is in crisis and that the current situation is not acceptable.
The Sinn Féin leader also welcomed the additional resources announced by the Taoiseach but warned that many students will still not have had a response by Christmas. Given the scale of the problem more resources are needed.
Teachta Adams pointed out that some of the 9000 applications that have been refused will undoubtedly appeal and this will create an additional stress on an already stretched system.
The Sinn Féin leader also expressed concern at the restrictions being imposed on some students by universities and he called on the Taoiseach to instruct the Minister for Education to contact the Higher Education Authorities to ensure that universities and Institutes of Technology do not unfairly penalise students who have not received their grants.
Speaking during Leaders Questions Mr Adams said:
“Students and their families are facing significant financial hardship arising from the failure of the new Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) to properly process student grant applications.
“This morning, at the insistence of Teachta Jonathan O Brien, the head of the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee was before the Education Committee. She claimed that ‘The system is working.’
“This refusal to acknowledge the crisis is insulting to students.”
The Sinn Féin leader quoted the experience of one student who is still being assessed by SUSI, and in an email reflects the frustration and anger of many students.
He says: ‘Anyway it is irrelevant now. I’m leaving the education system now. I’m leaving a course I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m leaving my goals and dreams. And I will most likely be leaving Ireland very soon.’
“The young citizen who sent the email explained his plight very well; ‘My dream is over. My goal of education and self -improvement is over. My life of poverty as it has been for the last few weeks is just not a viable option anymore. I will have to look to alternatives now, most likely emigration.’
“SUSI has caused me a great deal of stress from the start. I was one of the first to apply to the system in June and despite sending back documents as early as possible I still await an answer.’
“It is very likely that as a result of the current debacle many students will still not know the outcome of their applications before Christmas.
“The new SUSI on-line system was introduced and sold by the minister as a means of making the process of applying for a grant more efficient and easier. It has done neither.
“There are serious flaws in the system that have resulted in delayed payments, poor communication and inadequate responses to applications and document submissions.
“The impact of this on students and their families is considerable. The minister brought in this new system and the minister has responsibility to ensure that the system meets the goals and targets set for it.”