“Income thresholds for Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) Grants must be overhauled as a matter of priority,” said Sinn Féin TD for Kerry, Pa Daly.
Teachta Daly said that, at the moment, eligibility criteria unfairly penalises families and has led to Kerry students dropping out of college due to financial stress and anxiety placed on both the student and their family. There are four criticisms that I continually hear about:
Excluded From Fees and Maintenance
Families in receipt of the Working Family Payment have found themselves excluded from fees and maintenance support. This is incredulous.
A family that is not earning enough income to provide for their family on a weekly basis can be deemed as making too much to qualify for a SUSI grants.
This is the clearest indication that the SUSI income thresholds are too low.
What Message Does This Send?
Reckonable income for SUSI financial assessments discounts summer work to a maximum of €4,500.
Term-time income is considered reckonable income. I know of a student who has gone to work at weekends, in a job with highly unsociable hours, to help pay the bills in their family household. This ultimately cost this family any form of SUSI support. What message does this send?
Redundancy Payments as Reckonable Income
Redundancy payments should be excluded from reckonable income, or there should be a provision to request an exclusion. For people who received only a statutory redundancy payment and will require this money to live for the following year, it seems harsh that their child loses a SUSI grant because the redundancy was paid in the prior year.
Unrealistic Income Thresholds
Income thresholds should factor each additional child in the family rather than being banded by Up to Four Children; Four to Seven Children; and Eight Children or more.
The range between bands is quite narrow which makes for unrealistic income thresholds.
“I am calling on government to intervene and introduce a fairer system for families who need this support to ensure their child can avail of third-level education, and the opportunity that follows, if they wish to pursue it.”
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