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Government must intervene in grants debacle – Doherty

11 November, 2009 - by Pearse Doherty TD

Speaking after meeting members of the USI including its president Peter Mannion, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education Senator Pearse has reiterated his call for immediate government action on the chaos that has been ongoing within VECs and County Councils in the distribution of student grants.

He said:

“This year has seen applications for the student maintenance grant skyrocket to an all-time high due to the fact that so many parents have been made unemployed or have had their wages slashed.

“The recruitment embargo, which bans local authorities and VECs from employing new and additional people to deal with this problem, the ban on overtime, which does not allow people to work in excess of the scheduled hours to deal with the backlog, and the fact that local authorities were of the view initially that they would not have to deal with this matter this year because the Student Support Bill would transfer the services to the VEC and the delay in making the applications available by the Department of Education have caused all the problems this year.

“Because many applications have yet to be processed hundreds of students have yet to be able to register properly or receive their payment. They are also left without access to many important facilities such as computers, libraries, laboratories and without a student card which is needed for many reasons including the sitting of exams.

“Most importantly those who have applied for their grant did so because they need it to survive in college. With the cost of books, course equipment, food, travel etc going to college does not come cheap. Who knows how many have had to defer going to college altogether or have had to borrow to pay their way.

“This government cannot say they did not know this was going to happen. The Student Support Bill is there ready to be enacted but that wasn’t done. This government disastrous policy of putting an embargo on recruitment and ending entitlements to sick leave and overtime is the direct cause of this fiasco.

“There are those in Fine Gael who complain about these delays, but they must understand their policies mirror that of the current government of slashing public pay, banning recruitment and ending entitlements to sick leave and overtime, all of which have led to the current situation. For all their talk they really don’t offer anything but more of the same.

“I am reiterating my call on the government to immediately lift the embargo so that grants can be processed as soon as possible”. ENDS

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