Dáil Éireann - Volume 648 - 26 February, 2008

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Payments.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science the reason a person, who is employed for less than 391 consecutive days, in advance of returning to full-time education, loses the back to education allowance, the rent support allowance and the top up grant and that during a three year degree course a person trying to better their employment prospects will lose €64,000; the steps he will take to coordinate the financial support required to implement the commitments in the Programme for Government on the expansion of adult education provision to be met; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7874/08]

  Deputy Mary Hanafin: Eligibility for the Back to Education Allowance and associated payments, is a matter for the Department of Social and Family Affairs.

The Special Rate of Maintenance Grant is available to students in receipt of the ordinary maintenance grant under each of my Department’s four maintenance grant schemes. In order to qualify for the special rate of maintenance grant a candidate must meet a number of conditions, including the following:

1. An applicant must qualify for the ordinary maintenance grant.

2. Total reckonable income in the relevant tax year must not exceed the lower income limits as set out in the relevant Maintenance Grant Schemes and, where applicable, net of Child Dependent Increase payments

3. As at the prescribed date — i.e. 31st December each year — the source of income must include one of the eligible long-term Social Welfare payments.

The prescribed income limit for the special rate of maintenance grant for the academic year 2007/2008 is €18,055.

The Deputy will be aware that I have recently published the Student Support Bill. This Bill will provide a statutory framework for reforming the administration of student grants and a coherent basis for a new single unified scheme of student maintenance grants. My Department, in consultation with the key stakeholders, will consider all criteria regarding eligibility for maintenance grants, including the special rates of maintenance grant, as part of the ongoing work on the Student Support Bill and the introduction of a single unified scheme.

The co-ordination of the financial support required to implement the commitments in the Programme for Government on the expansion of adult education provision falls within the remit of my Department. This process involves frequent consultation with other appropriate Departments and organisations.