Grants for some in third level may be delayed until new year, says Quinn

Wed, Nov 21, 2012, 00:00

Some third-level students may not receive their college grants until the new year, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has admitted in the Dáil.

He insisted that the controversial Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) system would make “every effort” to ensure successful applications were paid by the end of December but said it might be the beginning of January because of “requirements in respect of bank details and verification of attendance, together with the banking restrictions over the holiday period”.

The Susi, a centralised process to replace the 66 bodies previously involved in dealing with grant applications, has suffered significant delays in clearing applications and hundreds of students claimed it had affected their access to facilities in college and ability to pay rent.

Last week Mr Quinn accepted responsibility for the delays and apologised to students and their parents for the distress they suffered as a result but he said there were difficulties with incomplete applications.

During education questions yesterday he said the backlog of applications would be cleared by Christmas but Fianna Fáil education spokesman Charlie McConalogue said there had been no increase in the 2,000 applications being dealt with each week. At this rate “only an additional 12,000 applications will be decided by Christmas”, he said.

Mr Quinn agreed but he said Susi officials were certain they would reach the target because of the recent significant increase in staff and the process would accelerate. “The aim is to get 33,000 applications cleared by Christmas,” he added. Sinn Féin education spokesman Jonathon O’Brien pointed to no cost-benefit analysis carried out when a Cork company got the contract for the scanning of grant application documents, but he said “there is a cost and it is being borne by the students”.