Dáil Éireann - Volume 590 - 14 October, 2004

Written Answers - Higher Education Grants.

  116. Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if a parent (details supplied) in County Tipperary is entitled to a top-up grant for their child, even though the parent is receiving a small maintenance payment. [24863/04]

  Ms Hanafin: The report of the action group on access to third level education makes detailed recommendations concerning the introduction of special rates of maintenance grants for disadvantaged students, usually referred to as top-up grants. The target group of those most in need has been defined in terms of the dependants of people receiving long-term welfare payments, where the necessary conditions are fulfilled.

The special rates of grant are also available to mature students who meet the prescribed conditions. To qualify for the top-up grant all candidates must satisfy the following conditions: qualify for the ordinary maintenance grant in respect of the academic year; total reckonable income limit in the tax year to 31 December 2003 must not exceed €14,693, net of standard exclusions, as set out in the 2004 maintenance grants schemes and net of CDA payments, where applicable; as at 31 December 2003, the reckonable income of parent(s)/guardian(s), the candidate himself/ herself, or the income of the spouse/partner, as the case may be, must include one of the eligible social welfare payments prescribed under the scheme.

When a student submits an application for grant assistance the application will automatically be assessed for the special rate of grant where the income includes one of the eligible social welfare payments prescribed under the scheme. Decisions on applications are taken by the awarding authority based on the conditions and terms issued by my Department. The awarding authorities do not refer individual applications to my Department except in exceptional cases where, for example, advice or instruction regarding a particular condition 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 s/he has been unjustly refused the special rate of maintenance grant, s/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 inter[783] preted the conditions correctly in his/her case, a letter outlining the position may be sent to my Department.

No appeal has been received in the student support unit of my Department from the student referred to by the Deputy. Alternatively, as already indicated, the local authority or VEC may, itself, in exceptional circumstances, seek clarification on issues from my Department. It is not open to me or to my Department to depart from the terms of the schemes in individual cases.