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Student Support Bill must dismantle education barriers - Doherty

4 February, 2008

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty welcomed the announcement that the long awaited Student Support Bill is to be published this week. Senator Doherty said the delay in the process of this Bill has led to hardships for students and in some cases students have actually had to give up their studies altogether.

Speaking today Senator Doherty said, "In response to a Sinn Féin question in December 2006 Education Minister Mary Hanafin assured the Dáil that the Student Support Bill would be introduced in early 2007. Despite this commitment the Bill is due to be published this week a whole year later.

"The current situation with regard to student grants is untenable. There are currently 33 VECs and 33 Local Authorities administrating the grants to 40% of all those who attend college in this state. It is extremely difficult for students to navigate their way through the different types of grants and the issuing bodies.

"Those who are affected most are those on low incomes and those from rural backgrounds. Grant payments have been delayed by up to four months leaving students in a position were they need to borrow just to keep up with rent and utilities. It is not unusual for students to be left waiting months before a decision is even made on their application.

"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.

"The Student Support Bill must reform all of these unnecessary hardships. Every barrier to education must be dismantled. The delay in enacting this Bill has led to much hardship for students and in some cases students have actually had to give up their studies altogether. This must not be allowed to continue.

"I welcome the announcement of the long awaited publication of this Bill. However I will reserve judgement until I have seen its content." ENDS

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