Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Questions (132)

Bernard Durkan


132. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which he expects Student Universal Support Ireland to be in a position to deal with processing of higher education grants for students within a reasonable time; if in the event of the obvious shortcomings so far identified, consideration might be given to reverting to the old system whereby extra local authority staff were traditionally deployed for this purpose and were redeployed to other work for the remainder of the year, thus achieving a much higher degree of efficiency and value for money; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32515/13]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

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 five 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.

I have no plans to revert to the previous system where 66 different awarding authorities were involved in the assessment of grants.

Questions Nos. 133 and 134 answered with Question No. 120.