Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (662)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

662. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if a person (details supplied) is entitled to the special rate SUSI grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26909/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher 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 which was set up at the behest of Oireachtas members, 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 oireachtas@susi.ie.  Staff in SUSI are responding to email queries within a matter of days.

 The main support available to students is the statutory based Student Grant Scheme where students are studying for the first time or are progressing to study at a higher level e.g. progressing to Level  9 Post graduate. 

In order to be eligible for the special rate of grant in the 2020/21 academic year, the reckonable income must include on 31st December 2019 one of the eligible long term payments listed in Schedule 2 of the Student Grant Scheme 2020. 

With regard to this specific application, I been advised by my officials that the student in question was issued an award letter of €2,000 post graduate fee contribution in May this year. It was noted by the awarding authority that the applicants mother passed away in December 2019. As both of the applicant's parents are deceased the applicant was assessed on her own income and she did not have a qualifying eligible social welfare payment in her own right.

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 an appeals officer in SUSI and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his/her case, an appeal may be submitted to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board within the required timeframe (i.e. not later than 30 days after the notification of the determination of the appeals officer to the applicant). Such appeals can be made by the appellant on line via www.studentgrantappeals.ie. To date no appeal has been received by the Student Grant Appeals Board from the applicant.

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, the Deputy will be aware of the recently announced €168m funding package for the return to education. This package includes a €10m access support package for higher education students. I have approved the allocation of €8.1m of this funding to top up the Student Assistance Fund (SAF). The SAF assists students in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility in the Student Assistance Fund to enable HEIs to support students during the COVID-19 situation. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the third level institution attended.

Tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax office or from the Revenue Commissioners website www.revenue.ie