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Deputy O’Brien concerned at lack of experienced staff to be retained by SUSI

3 May, 2013 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Deputy O’Brien concerned at lack of experienced staff to be retained by SUSI

 Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has said that he has concerns that Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) will again struggle to cope with third level applications despite the external review that has taken place into how it functioned over the past year.

 Deputy O’Brien said:

“It is perhaps stating the obvious, but there was a catastrophic failure on the part of Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) in the way it dealt with student grant applications and appeals. This resulted in significant hardship for students who, for months, were left without financial assistance and resulted in an apology being made by Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to students and their families.

 “It was always going to be a significant challenge for one centralised system to replace the previous 66 awarding authorities and, quite clearly, many of the problems that occurred with SUSI can be attributed to a lack of resources and experienced personnel.

 “Sinn Féin has made it clear there can be no repeat of the debacle which happened last year and we welcomed the external review into SUSI announced by the Minister in February.

 “I recently submitted a Parliamentary Question (PQ) asking how many existing staff of SUSI will be retained for the 2013/14 academic year and the answer I got back was 29. This is very worrying because one of the view positives to be taken from what has happened with SUSI is that staff would have learnt a great deal from having to administer third level grants under the new system.

 “The fact that such a relatively small number of experienced staff is remaining means new staff recruited to SUSI will be starting from scratch and may lack the expertise to process applications efficiently. This was one of the major criticisms voiced by students when trying to get their grants processed and I hope this is not history repeating itself.

 “One of the mitigating factors used to explain the failure of SUSI was that it was an ambitious attempt to replace the dozens of awarding authorities with one centralised system and that such a radical change would always be problematic. As we approach the new grant cycle, there can be no excuse for replicating those same mistakes and SUSI needs to be staffed by staff who have the knowledge and expertise to deal with applications efficiently.”


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