Tuesday, 20 October 2020
Department of Education and Skills
Student Grant Scheme
469. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the evidence required to prove irrevocable estrangement from a parent for the purposes of applying for the SUSI grant as in the case of a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30922/20]
The objective of the statutory based student grant scheme is to provide additional assistance where parental income is below a certain threshold or, in the case of independent mature students, where the level of income of the student and his or her spouse warrants additional assistance by way of a grant.
For student grants purposes, students are categorised according to their circumstances either as students dependent on parents or a legal guardian, or as independent mature students.
A student may be assessed as an independent mature student if he or she has attained the age of 23 on the 1st of January of the year of first entry to an approved course or of re-entry following a break in studies of at least three years and is not ordinarily resident with his/her parents from the previous October. Otherwise he or she would continue to be assessed on the basis of parental income.
Only in exceptional cases, where compelling evidence of estrangement from parents/guardians is provided, can candidates who are under 23 be assessed without reference to their parents/guardians income or address, Article 21(3) (b) of the Scheme refers. Otherwise he or she is assessed as a dependent student for student grant purposes, i.e. assessed on the basis of the income and address of parents/legal guardians.
The assessment of a case of estrangement is carefully considered to ensure there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the exceptional circumstances pertaining in such cases genuinely exists. Cases of genuine estrangement are relatively rare and almost always will involve exceptional circumstances unique to a particular family situation. The scheme does not stipulate precisely how an awarding authority satisfies itself that such circumstances prevail. This is to allow the awarding authority sufficient flexibility to assess the evidence of irrevocable estrangement in each individual case. The type of documentary evidence required is dependent on the applicant's individual circumstances.
SUSI, the grant awarding authority, has advised that the student in question applied for student grant assistance on 8th May 2020 and declared that his sister was his legal guardian. SUSI requested evidence of legal guardianship but his sister had not been appointed as his legal guardian. As the student was under the age to be assessed as an independent mature student SUSI then wrote to the student to request evidence of estrangement from his parents. The student was advised by SUSI that accepted evidence of estrangement can include a letter from a Social Worker/TUSLA confirming estrangement or a Court Order. The student was also advised that other documentary evidence could be submitted but must specifically confirm irreconcilable estrangement from his parents. The grant awarding authority could not accept an affidavit from the student or his sister as evidence of his estrangement as it would not be independent documentary evidence of estrangement for the purposes of the grant scheme.
The student did not submit the required evidence of estrangement and cancelled his application for student grant assistance on 25th September 2020. The student would have had a statutory right to appeal the decision of the awarding authority if he had proceeded with his application.
SUSI’s online application process for student grant applications for the 2020/21 academic year opened on 23rd April, 2020. The closing date for receipt of late applications by SUSI is 5th November, 2020. The student may still submit a student grant application as a dependent student before the closing date.