Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Questions (393, 397)

Simon Harris


393. Deputy Simon Harris asked the Minister for Education and Skills the measures that have been taken to ensure that the delays encountered by students applying for the third level grant have been rectified; the additional resources that have been allocated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32162/13]

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Denis Naughten


397. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he is taking to ensure there is not a repeat of the failure by Student Universal Support Ireland to process 2012-13 higher education grant applications in a competent manner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32178/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 393 and 397 together. The Accenture Report, which reviewed the operations of SUSI, contained a series of recommendations, many of which are already being implemented by SUSI. In line with these recommendations and in preparation for the 2013/14 academic year, both the online application system and the application assessment process have been further developed to enhance their effectiveness and to deal with the difficulties experienced in year one.

A number of new initiatives will make the application process more efficient this year including: direct information sharing between SUSI and Government agencies such as the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social Protection, the General Register Office and the Central Applications Office. These links should significantly reduce the number of documents required from applicants themselves.

In addition the staff resources recommended by the review have already been sanctioned. The resources include three additional management posts and some 23 (whole time equivalent) additional processing staff. This will help to ensure that qualifying students have their applications assessed as quickly as possible. SUSI has also significantly developed its training programme to meet the training needs of new and existing staff.

In addition, the closing date will be a month earlier to facilitate earlier application and decision on a grant application. Also SUSI is working closely with all third level institutions to improve the payment process for the 2013/14 academic year.