Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Questions (595)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

595. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if pandemic unemployment payments will be assessed as reckonable income for special rates of SUSI grants in 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7103/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Under the Student Grant Scheme, grant assistance is available to eligible students attending an approved course in an approved institution who meet the terms and conditions of funding, including those relating to residency, means, nationality and previous academic attainment.

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for SUSI to determine. For the 2020/21 academic year, student grant applications will be assessed based on gross income from all sources for the period 1st January 2019 to 31st December 2019.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment was first implemented by the Department of Social Protection (DSP) in March 2020 for employees and self-employed people who had lost their employment due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The Social Welfare (Covid-19) (Amendment) Act 2020 establishes the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment as a social insurance benefit scheme separate from other social protection statutory schemes including the Supplementary Welfare Allowance and Jobseeker Allowance and Jobseeker Benefit schemes.

For student grant purposes, the Covid-19 payment has been treated as reckonable income for the SUSI means assessment process since it was introduced in March. This means that the Covid-19 payment is treated in a similar fashion to other Department of Social Protection payments such as Jobseekers Benefit/Allowance, thus ensuring a consistency of approach and an equitable treatment of students and their families in the SUSI means assessment process.

All applications are assessed nationally with reference to the terms and conditions of the relevant student grant scheme. The terms and conditions of funding are applied impartially to all applicants.

However, if a student or party to their application experiences a change in circumstances that is not a temporary change and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, they can apply to have their application assessed under the change in circumstances provision of the relevant Student Grant Scheme. The income of all parties to the application will be assessed or reassessed on the current year (2020) and they may also be asked to provide evidence of the current year’s (2020) income.

Any student who believes their student grant application has been assessed incorrectly may also avail of the opportunities to appeal to SUSI and subsequently to the independent Student Grant Appeals Board.

The statutory based Student Grant Scheme and Student Support Regulations are reviewed annually by my Department, following consultation with various stakeholders. It is anticipated that the Student Grant Scheme and Student Support Regulations for the 2021/22 academic year will be published in early April 2021. Students attending college in the academic year 2021/22 will be required to submit their grant application to SUSI (via www.susi.ie) to have their eligibility for grant assistance assessed.