Thursday, 6 December 2018

Questions (108)

Mattie McGrath

Question:

108. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has considered introducing a sliding distance scale in cases in which a person is under the distance for the non-adjacent SUSI grant and the family (details supplied) is in receipt of family income supplement by which the payment rate could be increased in accordance with the distance from the college; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51240/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The student maintenance grant is a contribution towards the living costs of a student. The student grant scheme does however, provide for different levels of maintenance support, depending on means. Grants are also provided at adjacent and non-adjacent rates. The higher non-adjacent rates are intended to provide additional support to those students who may be living away from home.

Under the terms of the student grant scheme, Family Income Supplement (aka Working Family Payment) is treated as an income disregard and is therefore not included in the calculation of reckonable income. It is also a qualifying payment for the special rate of grant.

Budget 2011 provided for a number of student grant measures which came into effect for the 2011/12 academic year, including the change in the assessment of the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant from 24 kilometres to 45 kilometres.

The 24km distance criterion was originally set in 1968 and had not been updated in more than 40 years. Since then, significant improvements have taken place in the road and rail network and it is considered that the revised distance criteria is more consistent with the type of distances that students may legitimately be expected to commute to college.

The current qualifying distance of 45km for the higher non-adjacent rate of student grant takes into account a reasonable radius within which students may commute on a daily basis.

Students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Information on the fund is available through the Access Officer in the third level institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.