I thank Deputies Ó Ríordáin and Nash for the question. As Deputy Ó Ríordáin said, it gives me an opportunity to expand further on the previous question. There is a holiday earnings disregard under SUSI of €4,500 in respect of income earned by students outside of term time, for example, the summer period and the Christmas season. Importantly, this remains available to all SUSI applicants in respect of such earnings. Students and others may decide to avail of work over the summer period and the income disregard remains in place.
A core principle that underpins the SUSI means assessment process is that there has to be a consistency of approach and equitable treatment of students and their families to ensure fair use of the financial resources available.
This includes the treatment of similar social protection payments for students and families.
In being conscious of making sure that we continue to support our students and that we recognise we have lived through extraordinary times, I need to make sure that we are consistent and fair to all students regardless of which social welfare support they may have received over the past year. The pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, is a social protection payment for employees and self-employed people who lost their employment on or after 13 March 2020 due to Covid-19 public health emergencies. Students who lost their employment due to Covid-19 are eligible for the payment. I am pleased that that is the case. The PUP payment has been treated as reckonable income for the SUSI means assessment process since it was introduced in March 2020. This is not new. It has always been reckonable income. This means that income from the Covid-19 payment has the same standing and is treated in a similar fashion to other Department of Social Protection benefits. We need to be fair. We need to be equitable, including in how we apply the terms of the holiday income disregard.
We have received over 46,000 applications. We have assessed over 28,500. The number of people who have been assessed as eligible for support is 26,500 - a very high rate. We are keeping this under close review.
Most students are assessed based on the family income - the income coming into the house. Most families and most households in this country have seen their income go down and not up over the course of the pandemic. I am not yet convinced that this will be a major factor but I will monitor it closely.