8.10.07 - students to expect grant delays again this year

Third level Students from the Cork City area can once again expect long delays in their grants, according to Sinn Féin Councillor Fiona Kerins. She was speaking in response to an answer to a question she put to the Council last night when it was stated that no special arrangements had been put in place to ensure students got their grants on time this year.

According to Councillor Kerins, 'the delays in the payment of student grants have been a thorny issue for many years in Cork. Often grants aren't paid until after Christmas, when it is clear that students need this money now at the start of term to pay rent deposits and buy books etc. As a result every year many students are forced into hardship simply because their grant is not paid on time. Unfortunately, Cork City Council has one of the worst records in this regard'.

'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.Considering the attempts being made to try to improve access to third level education for people from lower socio-economic groups this is particularly disturbing.'

'In recognition of the problem which affects other local authorities and not just Cork, the current Government is currently introducing legislation to centralise the grant award process in the hands of VECs. However the delays in getting the new Student Support Bill enacted mean that local authorities should have a particular responsibility in trying to get their act right this year. Everyone knows that the academic year starts in September/October every year. It's not nuclear physics we're talking about'.

Background information: 40% of those attending third level education receive state support.These monies are currently administered by 33 VECs and 33 local authorities. Some 56,000 third-level students qualified for support last year with the VECs handling about two-thirds of the applications.They will take over the remainder from local councils when the Student Support Bill is passed. Ms Hanafin first announced the selection of VECs to run the schemes in June last year, and planned to introduce the necessary laws in time for students applying for grants this summer. The statutory scheme will mean each VEC must process applications by a target date every year. However, the Bill has been delayed.

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