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Minister Hanafin's broken promise on Student Support Bill unacceptable - McDonald

22 August, 2007

Sinn Féin Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald has today criticised Minister for Education Mary Hanafin for reneging on her commitment to introduce new legislation ensuring the timely delivery of 3rd level students’ maintenance grants.


Ms McDonald said, “Following a parliamentary question raised by Sinn Féin in December of last year Minister Hanafin assured us that the Student Support Bill would be introduced by early this year thus eliminating distressful late payments of maintenance grants for students.


“40% of those attending third level education receive state support. These monies are currently administered by 33 VECs and 33 local authorities. Many find it difficult to navigate their way through the many grants types and issuing bodies. 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. Students can also be left waiting months before a decision on their application is even made.


“The financial burden on students cannot continue to be ignored. It is estimated that on average it costs students approximately €7,500 per year to attend college while those in receipt of the maintenance grant get just over €3,000.


“The Student Support Bill is currently with the Attorney General, this is completely unacceptable. In a time when education and up-skilling of the work force is so central to our economic stability it is truly shocking that the government is so tardy in its delivery of this Bill.


“I have today written to Minister Hanafin asking that she take immediate steps to ensure that this Bill be prioritised by her department and I have also requested a timeframe for its delivery.  Students must be reassured that the introduction of a single unified third level maintenance grant system is imminent, making this the last year they face additional financial insecurity.” CRíOCH

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