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Third Level Education

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 13 July 2021

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Questions (531)

Steven Matthews

Question:

531. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if his attention has been drawn to a campaign by an organisation (details supplied) amongst others in relation to the impact that the pandemic unemployment payment is having on SUSI grant applications given many students who would normally be in receipt of grant funding are no longer qualifying; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37791/21]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The Student Grant Scheme is a critical financial support for students participating in higher education.  As of last week, SUSI had received over 80,000 applications from students. To date, almost 56,000 applications have been assessed with over 49,000 assessed as eligible for support for the next academic year.  

As in any statutory scheme, a core principle is that there is consistency of approach and an equitable treatment for applicants as part of the means assessment process.

This applies to people who are dependent on different types of social protection payment.

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment has been treated as reckonable income since it was introduced in March 2020 . Income from the Covid-19 payment therefore has the same standing and is treated in a similar fashion to other Department of Social Protection payments such as Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance. 

This means that a student or a family on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment should be treated in the same way as a student or a family who are dependent on Jobseeker's Benefit or Allowance. 

However, a very important feature of the scheme that I would point to is the change of circumstances provision.  

If an applicant or a family member has experienced a change in circumstances during 2021, then they can apply to SUSI for their application to be assessed or reassessed under a change in circumstances. 

Such a change in circumstances would clearly include no longer being in receipt of a pandemic unemployment payment. Students will no longer receive the PUP from early September, in line with normal circumstances where students do not qualify for unemployment payments while at college.

The change of circumstances provision is a well-established procedure and it can also operate at scale.  For example, over 10,000 applicants declared a change of circumstance in the 2020/21 academic year and some 40% of these applications related to COVID-19.

The application of this provision will continue to allow the scheme to be flexible and responsive to people's circumstances.

Question No. 532 answered with Question No. 521.
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