Written Answers. - Student Support Schemes.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

98 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason for the delays in his Department issuing grant application forms to the various vocational education committees which resulted in the processing of grants being unusually late for a wide range of students; if he will ensure such delays will not recur; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21698/02]

My Department issued the 2002 schemes of student support to the awarding bodies, local authorities and vocational education committees, via electronic mail on 12 July. Hard copies of the schemes were subsequently issued on 15 July.

Significant amendments to the application form and notes booklet for applicants were required in view of the short, transitional tax period, April to December 2001. Also, the process of printing and subsequent delivery of the application forms took considerably longer than had been initially notified to the Department. When my Department became aware of the delay in the printing operation the application form and notes booklet were issued to the awarding bodies via electronic mail. This was done to allow the option of issuing forms as early as possible to prospective applicants. A hard copy of the material issued on the same day. My Department understands that in most, if not all cases, the awarding bodies decided to await delivery of their printed orders.

The awarding bodies process grant applications as speedily as possible and issue grant payments to eligible students as early as possible in the academic year.

My Department will continue to make every effort in future years to ensure that the schemes of student support, including application forms, are issued in a timely manner prior to the start of the academic year.