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Minister must act immediately to alleviate grants crisis – Doherty

15 September, 2010 - by Pearse Doherty TD

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Education Senator Pearse Doherty has called on the Minister for Education and Skills Mary Coughlan to act immediately to alleviate what is likely to be another grants crisis.

The Senator said that in Donegal County Council alone, of the 650 first time applicants the vast majority have not yet been processed, meaning that the majority of new applicants will not receive their grant when it is due out in mid-October.

Senator Doherty said:

“Last year saw thousands of students in crisis situation while left waiting months for the first instalment of their grant. One year on and the indications are such that, far from learning the lessons of last year, the Department of Education and the Minister look set for yet another grants crisis.

“Information given to me by Donegal County Council has shown that of the 650 new grant applicants, the vast majority have not yet been processed. With the council almost 6 weeks behind in processing applications it looks like the majority of new applicants will not receive their grants by October and the vast majority will not receive their letters of offer.

“By not receiving the letter of offer, students who are due back in college this and next week, are faced with a crisis situation. Registration has already started. Students who are not entitled to a grant have to pay a €1,500 fee for registration. Without the letter of offer showing that they are entitled to a grant, grant applicants will be faced with two options: pay up or drop out.

“The very fact that students apply for a grant means that they are hard-pressed for money and cannot afford the exorbitant registration fee. Already l have received phone calls from worried parents and students saying that they will be forced to drop out of college if they do not receive their grant on time.

“The Minister for Education needs to act fast so that this situation does not spiral out of control again. I believe that there are three immediate steps that need to be taken:
1. There should be an immediate review of the backlog that exists in councils and VECs and of their ability to handle the crisis.
2. Temporary staff should be deployed to process applications.
3. The Minister should issue a directive to all third level institutions ordering temporary registrations of all grant applicants in order to allow them to participate fully in their courses.

“These are simple steps which the Minister could and should take immediately in order to alleviate this crisis.” ENDS

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