Minister Hanifan needs to consult with students on grant review - Doherty
Speaking in the Seanad this afternoon Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has criticised Minister Hanifin for reneging on her commitment to deliver on the Student Support Bill. The Senator also highlighted the need for the need for the Department of Education to consult with students to look at increasing grant payments to reflect financial realities for students.
The Donegal Senator said:
“In response to a parliamentary question raised by Sinn Féin in December of last year Minister Hanafin assured the chamber that the Student Support Bill would be introduced by early this year thus eliminating distressful late payments of maintenance grants for students.
“We wrote to Minister Hanifan in August of this year, again outlining our concerns for students financial well being during the coming academic year due to the Bill not being introduced as promised.
“40% of those attending third level education receive state support. These monies are currently administered by 66 grant issuing bodies. This makes applying for grants cumbersome and inconsistent. The Student Support Bill is crucial to reforming this process.
“Those who suffer most are students from low income and rural families. With grant payments delayed by up to 4 months many have to borrow to enable them to pay rent and utilities. In extreme cases some can be faced with no option but to drop out. This is particularly applicable for a region such as Donegal where the unemployment rate is at 18%.
“It is also worth noting that grants still fail to cover a number of additional costs associated with third level education, such as rent, essential equipment, travel and childcare. All of these are huge education barriers to young people from rural areas.
“Sinn Féin in its election manifesto called on the government to double the grant so as to accurately reflect the living and additional costs for students. Government needs to engage in a consultation process with the Union of Students in Ireland to ensure this need is delivered on.
“Maintenance grants and fee subsidies should be extended to include part-time students if we are to extend access to education. As we are entering an economic downturn the up-skilling and retraining of mature students should be to the forefront of the Education Ministers remit.
“There can be no further delay in the progressing of the Student Support Bill by Education Minister Mary Hanifan. Sinn Féin supports 100% the USI in their demand for the Bill to be urgently enacted.” CRÍOCH