I propose to take Questions Nos. 524 and 525 together.
My Department funds three means-tested maintenance grant schemes for third level education students in respect of attendance on approved courses in approved third level institutions. These are the higher education grants scheme, the vocational education committees' scholarship scheme and the third level maintenance grants scheme for trainees. The arrangements for the payment of maintenance grants under the higher education grants scheme are a matter for the local authorities, which are statutorily entrusted with the administration of the scheme under the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Act, 1968.
My Department understands from Roscommon County Council that the first instalment of maintenance grant for the 2001-02 academic year issued to successful applicants on 28 September 2001. County Roscommon vocational educational committee, which administers the VEC scholarship scheme, has confirmed that the first instalment of maintenance grant issued to successful applicants on 19 October 2001.
While it is the vocational education committees that assess applications under the third level maintenance grants scheme for trainees, the third level institutions approved under the scheme are responsible for payment of the maintenance grants to individual students. Under the terms of the higher education grants scheme and the vocational scholarship scheme, maintenance grants are paid in three equal instalments as early as possible in each of the three terms of the academic year.
With regard to the introduction of special rates of maintenance grants for disadvantaged students, my Department has forwarded full details of this initiative to the local authorities and vocational education committees. Arrangements for payment of the special rates are a matter for those bodies. I am arranging to have the Deputy's query forwarded for the attention of Roscommon County Council and County Roscommon VEC, together with my reply.