Public Sector Pay

Ceisteanna (102)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

102. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will set out each side agreement reached with trade unions and staff associations during the recent talks that led to the draft public service agreement including for additional allowances, annual leave and higher pay rates; and if he will set out also the cost of each individual item, in tabular form. [30478/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Public)

The Department has published details of this matter on its website: http://www.per.gov.ie/en/public-service-pay-policy/public-service-stability-agreement/

Please find, in addition, the following table outlining the costs for those measures on which agreement was reached in the course of the recent negotiations and which will only fall to be payable should the Agreement be ratified later this year. 

Measure

Cost per annum

The consequential increase of €500 in the rate of Rent Allowance and associated salary scale consolidations for Prison Officers and Firefighters on foot of the Labour Court recommendations on An Garda Síochána.

€6.5m

Extension of the Rent Allowance to those small number of full-time Firefighters not already in receipt of it.

€0.25m

Restoration for post-2012 new entrants of allowance for radiographers working in the Breast Check Unit in the health   sector;

€0.27m

Restoration for post-2012 new entrants of Livestock Allowance for certain technical officers in the Department of   Agriculture; and

€0.09m

Restoration for post-2012 new entrants of Tool Allowance for craft workers in the Local Authorities, OPW, and health   and education sectors.

€0.39m

Separately, as highlighted in the published list on the website, agreement was reached at the WRC prior to the recent negotiations on 4 March this year under the framework of the existing Lansdowne Road Agreement that a number of allowances for post-2012 new entrant nurses would be restored.  The annual costs associated with this element of the March nursing agreement are €4.71 million.  Their restoration is also conditional on ratification of the new Agreement by the unions concerned.

Brexit Issues

Ceisteanna (103)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

103. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the possible affect of Brexit on fees and access to higher education for Irish students who attend British universities and colleges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30365/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Under existing rules, all EU higher education students are treated the same as a national from the country in which they seek to study. Depending upon the negotiated terms of Brexit there may be future implications for Irish students studying in the UK.  My Department is keeping this matter under constant review and it is my stated intention to seek to have the best outcome for our students.

A principal concern of mine is to protect to the greatest extent possible student mobility between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the UK and within the EU and to support our strategy to increase non-EU student flows.  I am particularly concerned to facilitate the continued feasibility of the UK as an option for our further and higher education students.

With such issues in mind a key part of my approach has been to engage on Brexit-related matters at political and institutional level. I have met my counterparts Peter Weir and Simon Hamilton of the NI Executive, and recently met with the UK’s Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening. I also met the former Minister of State for Exiting the EU, David Jones, the UK’s Opposition Spokesperson on Brexit, Keir Starmer, as well as members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Irish in Britain. I have also had meetings with Ministers from other EU Member States and with representatives of the EU Commission at which our priorities and concerns were raised.

In relation to Irish students currently studying in Higher Education Institutions in the UK and those planning to do so in the coming years, the UK Government have outlined that the EU referendum outcome and the triggering of Article 50 will not lead to any immediate change to the immigration status of current EU students, including those that are on courses in this academic year (2016–17). 

It has also been outlined in separate statements from across all UK nations (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) that current university students from the EU and those applying to courses starting in 2017–18 will not see any changes to their loan eligibility or tuition fee status. This position will apply for the full duration of the course, even if the course finishes after the UK has left the EU.  For students looking to study in Scotland, this position has been extended to those enrolling for 2018–19.

Separate statements from across all UK nations confirm that current EU students, including 2016–17 entrants, will remain eligible to receive loans and grants to fund their studies for the duration of their courses.

EU students attending universities in England and Wales who are eligible under current rules to receive loans and grants from the Student Loans Company will continue to do so for the duration of courses they are currently enrolled on. This has been confirmed by the Student Loans Company for England, and by Universities Wales for Wales.

Under EU law, students from EU member states applying for undergraduate degrees at Scottish universities are currently eligible for free tuition. For EU students attending a university in Scotland, the Scottish government and Universities Scotland have confirmed that there has been no change in current funding arrangements. This means that eligible EU students already studying in Scotland, including those that commenced their studies the current academic year (2016–17) will continue to benefit from free tuition and, for those who meet the residency requirement, associated living cost support.

In Northern Ireland, the Department for the Economy has issued a statement confirming that EU nationals who are currently receiving student loans from Student Finance Northern Ireland, including those that started courses last autumn (in the 2016–17 academic year) will continue to receive these loans and grants until they finish their course.

The following is the position for EU students applying for a course starting in 2017–18:

- In England: The Government has outlined that EU students applying to start a course in England in 2017–18 will continue to be eligible for tuition fee loans and for 'home' fee status for the duration of their study.

- In Wales: The Education Secretary has announced that EU nationals who intend to begin studying in the academic year 2017–18 will also continue to receive financial support.

- It has also been confirmed in a statement from the Scottish Government that students starting courses in 2017 at universities in Scotland will continue to receive free tuition and other support for the full duration of their course.

- Similar announcements have been made in respect of EU students applying to universities in Northern Ireland.  Student Finance Northern Ireland has said that EU nationals currently in higher education and those who intend to begin studying from 2017 who are assessed as eligible to receive  loans and/or grants, will continue to receive these until they finish  their course.

 EU students applying for a PhD starting in 2017-18:

It has been confirmed by the UK Government that EU nationals starting courses in the next academic year (2017-18) will continue to be eligible for Research Council PhD studentships to help fund their studies for the full duration of their course. This will be the case even if the course finishes after the UK has left the European Union.

The foregoing is the most up-to-date information available to my Department in relation to the implications of Brexit on EU Students (including Irish students) currently studying or wishing to study in Higher Education Institutions in the UK in the coming years.

However, to ensure the utmost clarity for each individual student, I would advise all prospective Irish and other EU students to contact the higher education institution they are planning to apply to, or which they are already attending, in order to absolutely confirm its policy with regard to fees and tuition support for 2017-2018 and into the future.

My Department, as with all Government Departments, is continuing to engage with these matters and to plan for scenarios that might arise out of the EU-UK Brexit discussions.  We will continue to contribute to the EU preparations for negotiations and to assist with those negotiations to the greatest extent possible.  This includes engaging on education-related aspects of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK and the issues identified in the EU Guidelines recently published that set out the priorities for the negotiations for the EU.

Teaching Contracts

Ceisteanna (104)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

104. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Education and Skills the employment legislation and standards that apply to teachers; the employment legislation and standards that apply to teachers of English as a foreign language; the differences between the employment legislation and standards that apply to these two separate groups; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30428/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

Under the Education Act 1998 (as amended by the Education (Amendment) Act 2012) it is the Board of Management or Education and Training Board, as appropriate, which is responsible for employment of school staff in accordance with procedures published by the Department following consultation with the education partners.

These procedures are published on my Department’s website normally following consultations under the auspices of Teachers Conciliation Council.

The Teachers Conciliation Council is part of the scheme of Conciliation and Arbitration for Teachers and was set up to deal with claims and proposals relating to the Terms and Conditions of employment of teachers. The Council is composed of representatives of teachers, school management, the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and is chaired by an official of the Workplace Relations Commission

Regarding the teaching of English as a foreign language my Department may allocate extra teaching resources to schools that have high concentrations of pupils that require English as an Additional Language support. These teachers are employed by schools under the same terms and conditions.

The terms and conditions of individuals who are privately employed by non-recognised institutions is a matter for their employers.

Site Acquisitions

Ceisteanna (105)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

105. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the provision of a new site for a school (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30248/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department issued comments to the Board of Management on 7th February and has requested confirmation from the Board that the new school site has been finalized between the Patron body and the land owner. My Department has recently been in contact with the BOM who has advised that the site agreement is nearing completion, the BOM, as client cannot provide a definitive date as to when the process will be complete.

Upon receipt of this confirmation my Department will then revert to the Board of Management with regard to further progression of the project.

Schools Building Regulations

Ceisteanna (106)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

106. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a material (details supplied) has been used in school builds or school developments in the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30255/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

While the material referred to by the Deputy may be a component in some standard building products, particularly in insulation products, the Department can confirm that the type of cladding to which he also refers has not been used in school builds or school developments in the past two years.

Departmental Agencies Data

Ceisteanna (107)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

107. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Education and Skills if all agencies under his aegis have an up to date tax clearance certificate; the agencies which do not have an up to date tax clearance certificate; the reason they do not have a tax clearance certificate in each case, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30284/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My officials are in the process of collating the data sought by the Deputy and will respond to the Deputy as soon as possible.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 42A:

I refer to Parliamentary Question No. 107 (30284/17) of 28 June 2017 in which you sought details of the State Bodies under the aegis of my Department who have up to date tax clearance certificates, details of those agencies who don’t have up to date tax clearance certificates and where appropriate the reason each Body doesn’t have a tax certificate.

In my reply, I had stated that the information sought was not available at the time but would be forwarded to you separately. I am now in a position to provide the relevant information.

While I understand it is not strictly necessary for all State Bodies to obtain tax clearance certificates, Bodies are required to follow the terms of the 2016 Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, whereby State Bodies arc guided to be exemplary in their compliance with taxation laws.

I am advised that of the eighteen bodies under the aegis of my Department, fifteen have up to date tax clearance certificates. These bodies are listed in Appendix One.

In regard to three of the Department’s aegis bodies, the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, the Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Residential Institutions Redress Committee, my Department acts as paymaster for each of the three bodies, with their expenditure being accounted for through my Department’s Vote — Vote 26 Education and Skills. As these three bodies are not liable for taxation, therefore each of the three bodies does not have a requirement for a tax clearance certificate.

State Bodies under the aegis of the Department of Education and Skills who have up to date Tax Clearance Certificates

An Chomhairle urn Oideachas Gaeilge,

SOLAS,

Educational Research Centre,

Grangegorman Development Agency,

Higher Education Authority (whose certificate encompasses the Irish Research

Council))

Léargas (whose certificate encompasses the National Council for Guidance in

Education),

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment,

National Council for Special Education,

Quality and Qualifications Ireland,

Skilinets Limited,

State Examinations Commission,

Teaching Council.

Caranua - Residential Institutions Statutory Fund

Special Educational Needs Service Provision

Ceisteanna (108)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

108. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department will prioritise the availability of school supports for primary school students with severe dyslexia; if he will address a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30301/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department provides for a range of placement options and supports for schools, which have enrolled pupils with special educational needs, including pupils with Specific Learning Disability (SLD); of which Dyslexia is one such SLD, in order to ensure that wherever a child is enrolled, s/he will have access to an appropriate education.  

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE), which is a separate statutory agency, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for the provisoin of special educational needs supports to schools.  The NCSE operates within my Department's criteria in allocating such support.  SENOs are available to assist parents in identifying appropriate educational placements for children with special educational needs, including pupils with SLDs. 

All Primary schools have been allocated additional teaching resources to cater for children with special educational needs, including pupils with dyslexia.  Guidelines for schools on the organisation, deployment and use of their special education teachers have been published on my Department’s website, at http://www.education.ie/en/The-Education-System/Special-Education/Guidelines-for-Primary-Schools-Supporting-Pupils-with-Special-Educational-Needs-in-Mainstream-Schools.pdf.  Schools are supported in this regard by the National Educational Psychological Services. 

It is a matter for schools to monitor and utilise their allocation of additional teaching support to best support the needs of identified pupils, in accordance with my Department's guidance.  The teaching time afforded to each individual pupil is decided and managed by schools, taking into account each child's individual learning needs.  

My Department also provides for special schools and special class placements where more intensive and supportive interventions are provided.  Special classes attached to mainstream primary schools also support the needs of pupils with dyslexia.  Such classes have a reduced pupil/teacher ratio of 9:1 and an increased level of capitation grant.  The pupils who attend these classes have, following psychological assessment, been identified as having a specific learning disability.  The NCSE continues to monitor and review the requirement for special class places in particular areas. 

Funding is available to schools for the purchase of specialised equipment such as computers and/or software to assist children with special educational needs, including children with SLDs, where relevant professionals recommend the equipment as being essential for the provision of education.  Schools apply to the NCSE, through their local Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO) for such support.  SENOs make recommendations to my Department where assistive technology is required, in accordance with the criteria set out in my Department's Circular 0010/2013.  All schools have the names and contact details of their local SENO. 

Further supports which are provided to support pupils with Dyslexia include an information resource pack on Dyslexia which has been made available to all primary and post-primary schools, as well as provision for continuing professional development for teachers with additional training needs in the area of Dyslexia through the Special Education Support Service (SESS) and reasonable accommodations in State Examinations.

My Department also provides funding to the Dyslexia Association of Ireland at national level which helps the organisation operate an information service for members and the public as well as assisting in meeting the costs associated with the attendance of some children from disadvantaged backgrounds at workshops and programmes organised by the association.

My Department encourages parents and school authorities to engage locally regarding pupils' education.  Should a parent be dissatisfied with the manner in which supports have been provided to support their child's education they should raise this matter directly with their school Principal or the Board of Management of the school.  Parents may also contact their local SENO directly to discuss their child's present or future educational needs, using the contact details available on www.ncse.ie.

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 116)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

109. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills his expectations and those of the HEA regarding board members and audit committees handling whistleblowers’ cases in institutes of technology and universities. [30313/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

110. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if a board of an institute of technology or university was not told about a whistleblower’s case, the sanction for the executive or the persons of the college. [30314/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

111. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills the sanctions in place for board members and audit committees of institutes of technology and universities that fail in their duty of care to whistleblowers; the date on which the attention of boards and-or the audit committee was drawn to whistleblowers in these colleges. [30315/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

112. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that in some cases board members and audit committee members are also CEOs of ETBs and are responsible for handling their own ETB whistleblowers and are failing to deal with these matters; if this has occurred; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30316/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

113. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there have been cases in which the HEA and-or his Department have taken action to date in 2017 against a whistleblower in such cases; and if his Department and the HEA are willing to intervene and remove members of a board for failure to act and protect a whistleblower. [30317/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

114. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the HEA and his Department, by failing to have proper measures in place, are causing risk and reputational damage to colleges and persons; and if his attention has been further drawn to the costs associated with same. [30318/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

116. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his Department or the HEA has an oversight role regarding persons who manage whistleblowers in institutes of technology and universities, in view of the fact that they may have also been board members of long standing in ETBs and have failed to manage whistleblowers there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30320/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 109 to 114, inclusive, and 116 together.

The Protected Disclosures Act 2014, which came into effect on 15 July 2014, allows for any employee of a higher education institution (HEI) to make a disclosure to the Chief Executive Officer of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on any matter relating to the funding, planning and development of higher education and research in the State. The Act provides a framework within which employees of HEIs can raise concerns regarding potential wrongdoing in the workplace that has come to their attention and provides appropriate protections if they are penalised by their employer or suffer any detriment for doing so.

The HEA has a process in place for receiving these disclosures and takes appropriate action on any governance issues identified via this process with regard to an HEI. In the event that the HEA is not satisfied by a response received from a HEI which is the subject of a protected disclosure, it can consider recommending to my Department the appointment of an Inspector (in the case of IoTs) or a Visitor (in the case of Universities).

In addition, to complement the existing power to appoint a Visitor in the University sector, I will be seeking Government approval for a new power for the Minister for Education and Skills to appoint an investigator into a University in certain circumstances.

Issues raised by means of Protected Disclosures are taken very seriously by my Department and the HEA.

Higher Education Institutions

Question No. 116 answered with Question No. 109.

Ceisteanna (115)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

115. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills the details of his Department's 2015 review of corporate governance in all colleges. [30319/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

My Department and the HEA have been working closely together in recent years to strengthen governance arrangements in the higher education sector.

A key result of this shared commitment to underpin governance arrangements in the sector is the new Governance Framework for the Higher Education System, which was agreed in 2015 following consultation with my Department, the higher education institutions and other key stakeholders.

This Framework complements the previous governance and accountability infrastructure with a series of new and improved mechanisms which will provide more robust assurance of compliance with legislative and other requirements and more timely and responsive interventions to address any issues arising.

The framework makes clear the current governance arrangements that are in place and clearly details the responsibilities of higher education institutions (HEIs) in this area, as well as the central oversight role of the HEA in monitoring governance practice across the system and the mechanisms in place to ensure good governance practice and accountability of State funding.

The HEA have also established a new programme of rolling reviews to cover specific elements of governance.  My Department agreed with the HEA that the first rolling review of governance compliance would be on procurement. This review was undertaken in 2016.

This comes on top of existing requirements, which include a requirement that all HEIs submit Annual Accounts, an Annual Governance Statement and Statement of Internal Control to the HEA and that each HEI signs a financial memorandum with the HEA each year that outlines the ongoing responsibilities of the institution in relation to financial reporting.

The Department of Education and Skills and the HEA are considering whether any additional measures may be necessary to further strengthen governance in the future. 

Question No. 116 answered with Question No. 109.

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (117, 118)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

117. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if senior staff in a college (details supplied) have been proven to have been negligent in their duty of care in protecting a whistleblower or have been proven to be involved in penalising a member of staff of a university or institute of technology under section 12(1) of the Disclosure Act 2014; the sanction for these persons in respect of their jobs; the person or body that enforces the sanctions; if these persons pay for their own legal advisers or if the college pays for legal advice on their behalf; if persons have been held to account for same in an educational organisation; the sanction if a senior official of his Department or the HEA knew or ignored serious matters regarding whistleblowers; and if he will intervene in such matters. [30321/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

118. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason for delays in dealing with serious cases of whistleblowing within colleges; the further reason colleges are not proactive in such cases; if his attention has been drawn to the costs involved and the failure to look after the physical and mental health of persons; his plans to help and reward persons who have stood up to wrongdoing in educational organisations in view of the fact that whistleblowers are not protected by his Department with regard to their future careers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30322/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 117 and 118 together.

The Deputy has not named the Institute in question so I can provide only limited information.

The Protected Disclosures Act 2014, which came into effect on 15 July 2014, allows for any employee of a higher education institution (HEI) to make a disclosure to the Chief Executive Officer of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on any matter relating to the funding, planning and development of higher education and research in the State. The Act provides a framework within which employees of HEIs can raise concerns regarding potential wrongdoing in the workplace that has come to their attention and provides appropriate protections if they are penalised by their employer or suffer any detriment for doing so.

The HEA has a process in place for receiving these disclosures and takes appropriate action on any governance issues identified via this process with regard to an HEI. In the event that the HEA is not satisfied by a response received from a HEI which is the subject of a protected disclosure, it can consider recommending to my Department the appointment of an Inspector (in the case of IoTs) or a Visitor (in the case of Universities).

In addition, to complement the existing power to appoint a Visitor in the University sector, I will be seeking Government approval for a new power for the Minister for Education and Skills to appoint an investigator into a University in certain circumstances.

Issues raised by means of Protected Disclosures are taken very seriously by my Department and the HEA.

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (119)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

119. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Education and Skills if whistleblowers who are on sick or stress related leave are paid in full; if not, the reason for same; if educational organisations contact whistleblowers on leave to ascertain their state of health; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30323/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

The conditions governing the payment of salary for Civil Servants while on sick leave are contained in circular 12/2015. Section 3.9 of the circular provides an avenue for a staff member to avail of the Civil Service Employment Assistance Service for the overall wellbeing of the staff member.  Section 3.11 provides a mechanism for a member of staff to apply to extend the period of paid sick leave under the Critical Illness Protocol. 

The full terms of the circular can be viewed on the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform’s Website. 

Under the Education Act 1998 (as amended by the Education (Amendment) Act 2012) it is the Board of Management or Education and Training Board, as appropriate, which is responsible for employment of school staff in accordance with procedures published by the Department following consultation with the education partners.

Following a review of sick leave arrangements, a new Public Service wide sick leave scheme was introduced across the Public Service in 2014.  The Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) (Amendment) Act 2013, provided the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform with the power to make regulations that set out the specific details of the Public Service Sick Leave Scheme.  These regulations are contained in SI 124 of 2014 and provides for employers to grant the following:

- A maximum of 3 months (92 days) on full pay in a year

- Followed by a maximum of 3 months (91 days) on half pay

- Subject to a maximum of 6 months (183 days) paid sick leave in a rolling four year period.

A person who becomes incapacitated as a result of a critical illness or serious physical injury may be granted extended paid sick leave, in exceptional circumstances of:

- A maximum of 6 months (183 days) on full pay in a year

- Followed by a maximum of 6 months (182 days) on half pay

- Subject to a maximum of 12 months (365 days) paid sick leave in a rolling four year period.

Details of teachers' sick leave entitlements are set out in the electronic book "Employment Terms and Conditions for Registered Teachers in Recognised Primary and Post Primary Schools" and in Circular 0054/2015 for Special Needs Assistants.  These documents are available on my Department's website.

The notification and recording of sick leave is a matter between the employer and employee and it operates regardless as to whether the staff member is a “Whistleblower” as referred to by the Deputy in her question. There is no provision for "whistleblowers" to be treated differently to other employees.  In the event the Deputy has a concern about a particular case she can bring such a matter to my attention and I can request officials at my Department to examine the matter further.

Student Grant Scheme Applications

Ceisteanna (120)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

120. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will reassess the case of a person (details supplied) who has been refused a SUSI grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30337/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

As part of a comprehensive customer service and communications strategy provided by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), to ensure that all necessary avenues are open to applicants to receive the information they need, a dedicated email and phone line service is provided by SUSI for Oireachtas members. This was established to meet an identified need for applicants who choose to engage the assistance of their public representatives in making enquiries about their grant applications.

This service complements the established channels provided by SUSI which include online application tracking, a dedicated website, a telephone helpdesk, email and social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

Enquiries may be emailed direct to SUSI at oireachtas@susi.ie. Staff in SUSI are responding to email queries within a matter of days.

If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a student grant or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to SUSI.

Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down in writing by SUSI and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his/her case, an appeal may be submitted by the applicant via www.studentgrantappeals.ie outlining the position to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board within the required timeframe.

Student Assistance Fund

Ceisteanna (121, 132)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

121. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to begin a phased restoration to 2012 rates of student assistance fund, SAF, to reflect the real costs attached to participation in higher level education here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30344/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

132. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will address a matter (details supplied) regarding phased restoration of SAS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30418/17]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 121 and 132 together.

In December 2012 An additional €3 million was approved to supplement the Student Assistance Fund (SAF) following a survey conducted by the HEA in relation to the demand for the Fund.

This supplementary funding was a once-off exceptional measure which was taken in the context of long grant delays/issues encountered by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) in its initial year of operation.

An additional allocation of €1.5m was secured in budget 2016 for the Student Assistance Fund. The allocation under the Fund in 2017 is €8.1 million.