Dáil Éireann - Volume 521 - 13 June, 2000
Written Answers. - Grant Payments.
Ms Clune Ms Clune
292. Ms Clune asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to reports that disabled students are dropping out of college because of excessive delays in getting State funded grants to buy the technology needed to support them in their studies; the steps he will take to address the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16612/00]
Dr. Woods Dr. Woods
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): I am not aware that disabled students are dropping out of college because of excessive delays in getting State funded grants to buy the  technology needed to support them in their studies.
The special fund for students with disabilities, which is administered by my Department, provides funding to students with disabilities attending courses in third level institutions and, since 1998, in post leaving certificate centres. The purpose of the special fund is to provide students with serious physical and/or sensory disabilities with grant assistance towards the cost of special equipment, special materials and technological aids, targeted transport services, personal assistants and sign language interpreters.
The level of funding allocated to the special fund has increased substantially each year from an initial allocation of £80,000 in 1994. In 1999, the fund increased almost threefold to £700,000 from the 1998 allocation of £250,000. The 1999 fund of £700,000 was allocated to third level institutions and post leaving certificate centres in December 1999, to provide assistance to a total of 314 individual students in respect of the 1999-2000 academic year.
Once applications for assistance under the special fund are received by my Department at the beginning of the 2000-01 academic year, they will be dealt with expeditiously and awards will be made at the earliest possible date.
The National Development Plan, 2000-2006, provides for a third level access fund totalling £95 million. Building on the existing arrangements, the development of third level access is necessary to promote the participation of students with disabilities, students from disadvantaged backgrounds and mature “second chance” students.
The objective of this measure is to facilitate and improve access to the labour market for the beneficiaries whilst improving their long-term employability through enhancing their educational qualifications. It will, inter alia, meet the specific needs of students with disabilities in terms of equipment and support services. Considerations are ongoing on the allocation for initiatives under this fund.
Dáil Éireann 521 Written Answers. Grant Payments.