Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (387)

Michael Ring


498 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person (details supplied) in County Mayo, who is a mature student, has not received the top-up grant. [1778/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

The report of the action group on access to third level education makes detailed recommendations concerning the introduction of special rates of maintenance grants for disadvantaged students, usually referred to as top-up grants. In order to qualify for the special rate of maintenance grant a candidate must meet a number of conditions, one of which is that he or she must already qualify for one of my Department's ordinary maintenance grants.

My Department funds three means tested maintenance grant schemes for third level education students in respect of attendance on approved courses in approved third level institutions and one grant scheme in respect of post-leaving certificate courses: the higher education grants scheme; the vocational education committees' scholarship scheme; the third level maintenance grants scheme for trainees; maintenance grants scheme for students attending post-leaving certificate or PLC courses.

Where a student is already in receipt of a grant under one of these schemes, he or she may apply to the relevant local authority or VEC for the special rate of grant. Decisions on applications are taken by these bodies, based on the conditions and terms issued by my Department. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except in exceptional cases where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular condition is desired. It appears that no such advice or instruction has, to date, been sought in the case of the student referred to by the Deputy. If an individual applicant considers that he or she has been unjustly refused the special rate of maintenance grant, he or she may appeal to the relevant local authority or VEC.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by the relevant local authority or VEC and remains of the view that the body has not interpreted the conditions correctly in his/her case, a letter outlining the position may be sent to my Department. No appeal has been received in the student support unit of my Department from the student referred to by the Deputy. Alternatively, as already indicated, the local authority or VEC may, in exceptional circumstances, seek clarification on issues from my Department.

It is not open to me or to my Department to depart from the terms of the schemes in individual cases.