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 and one grant scheme for students pursuing post leaving certificate courses. These are the higher education grants scheme; the vocational education committees' scholarship scheme; the third level maintenance grants scheme for trainees; and the maintenance grants scheme for students attending post leaving certificate courses.
The statutory framework for the higher education grant schemes is set out in the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts 1968 to 1992. The local authorities administer the schemes on behalf of my Department. My Department reviews the schemes annually. The other three schemes are administered, on behalf of my Department, by the vocational education committees.
The decision on eligibility for maintenance grants is a matter for the relevant local authority or VEC. These bodies do not refer individual applications to my Department except in exceptional cases where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular clause in the relevant scheme is desired. It appears that no such advice or instruction has, to date, been sought in the case of the student referred to by the Deputy.
If an individual applicant considers that she or he has been unjustly refused a maintenance grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she or he may appeal to the relevant local authority or VEC.
Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down, in writing, by the relevant local authority or VEC, and remains of the view that the body has not interpreted the schemes correctly in his or her case, a letter outlining the position may be sent to my Department. Alternatively, as already indicated, the local authority or VEC may, in exceptional circumstances, seek clarification on issues from my Department.
However, it is not open to me or my Department to depart from the terms of the maintenance grants schemes in individual cases. Until such time as an application has been decided on by the relevant local authority or VEC, all inquiries regarding an individual application should be directed to the body concerned rather than to my Department.