Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Public Accounts Committee

Business of Committee

9:00 am

Photo of Seán FlemingSeán Fleming (Laois, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I ask the Deputy to liaise with the secretariat and we can send a letter to clarify the particular point. We will happily send on that letter to Caranua for clarification. We will note and published the letter received today.

Correspondence No. 2570 was received from Ms Carol Hanney, chief executive of City of Dublin Education and Training Board, CDETB, dated 22 November. It provides a further comprehensive note regarding the processes and procedures in SUSI for grant application cases involving difficult family situations. We will note and publish it.

For absolute clarification, we received a previous note and we were not happy with some particular aspects of how sensitive cases are dealt with. This letter clarifies for the information of the committee that CDETB "is the statutorily appointed national grant awarding authority designated by the Minister for Education and Skills to administer student grants. SUSI is an administrative unit of CDETB". Some people think SUSI is part of the Department or an independent body but in fact the City of Dublin Education and Training Board is the designated statutory authority to deal with grants and SUSI is a division within that organisation.

With regard to the point I raised regarding the correspondence note we received, and Deputy Connolly also made the same point, we asked for information on how SUSI deals with sensitive issues. We explained that in cases of family break up some students have immense difficulties getting information from both parents; that it is often not possible for them to get the information; that grant applications are not being approved in these situations; and, that people are losing out because of sensitive family situations. The note mentioned the issue of barring orders. We were very alarmed to hear SUSI might be looking for details of barring orders because that would affect third parties. They come from the family law courts and are not meant to be in public. It would probably be a breach of a court order to provide the information.

I will now read from the letter from the chief executive of CDETB:

In particular arising from your letter of 7 November, I wish to clarify that barring orders and decisions of the Family Law Courts are neither specifically requested nor required by SUSI in any case. However, and based on experience in practice of the documents that can and have been provided to SUSI to date where it has been necessary to evidence relevant family circumstances in order to determine grant eligibility, barring orders are currently included in the indicative list of documents that is provided for the information and guidance of students in such cases.

The letter states barring orders are not specifically requested but they are included in an indicative list the applicant can provide. This is important. The Committee of Public Accounts has achieved something. The next sentence states:

Having regard to the views and concerns expressed by the Committee, the reference to barring orders will be removed from the indicative list of documents for the future.

We have been on the case and SUSI took on board what we said. I wanted to make this point as people often ask whether we achieve anything here and this is something. It is a small but important point. We will note and publish this information.


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