Five students complain to Ombudsman over grant delays

Processing body Susi says a ‘very small’ number of applications from last year await decision

Students whose grants have been delayed due to ongoing problems at Susi have made complaints to the Ombudsman. File photograph of UCD campus, Belfield. Photograph: Frank Miller /The Irish Times

Students whose grants have been delayed due to ongoing problems at Susi have made complaints to the Ombudsman. File photograph of UCD campus, Belfield. Photograph: Frank Miller /The Irish Times

Thu, Jul 18, 2013, 15:31

Five students whose grants have been delayed due to ongoing problems at the body that processes them have made complaints to the Ombudsman.

Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) was established last year to replace applications to individual local authorities but the system suffered significant delays.

Susi said today it regretted any hardship caused to the “very small” number of students still waiting on grant decision from the 2012-2013 period.

“There are currently fewer than 15 individual cases to be finalised and Susi is working with each on a case by case basis. “

In a statement, Susi said a number of students who had already received decisions on their applications were availing of the full appeal process and these were being finalised on a daily basis.

Last year Susi awarded grants to 40,000 applicants and had already processed 22,000 renewal applications for 2013-2014, it added.

A spokeswoman for Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly confirmed five complaints had been received so far about the grants issue but she said she imagined the number would increase.

Several public bodies, including Susi, were brought within her remit in May.

They include all publicly funded third level education institutions, the Central Applications Office, the State Examinations Commission and others.

Ms O’Reilly may now examine complaints in relation to administrative actions of these new bodies which occurred on or after May 1st this year.

“The Ombudsman and officials from the office have met with Susi to discuss our role and to set out what we expect in terms of good public administration and good complaint handling,” she said in a statement yesterday.

“The office will continue to liaise with Susi in order to promote best administrative practice.”

In May, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn acknowledged the Government “got it wrong” with the introduction of the centralised system to administer third-level grants.

Just a third of the 60,000 applications for grants last year had been processed by November - well into the academic year.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told the Dáil today the Government intended to process all third-level grant applications by Chirstmas.

He was replying in the Dáil to Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who referred to the delays.

Mr Gilmore said recommendations to improve the system were being implemented. Some of those involved earlier and easier way of processing applications.

“I think it is far to say that students will not experience the kind of difficulties that they experienced last year,’’ he added. “But as we all know, it depends on the individual application, its quality sometimes and various information provided.’’

Ms McDonald said there were nearly 600 students with complications surrounding their grant applications.

“It is only a glimpse of the chaos we know reigned in this system for the last academic year.’’