Written answers

Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Student Universal Support Ireland

Photo of Gerald NashGerald Nash (Louth, Labour)
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39. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if student nurses who have been rejected for SUSI grants and who are unable to work outside of nursing due to Covid-19 can apply for their application to be assessed and reassessed given their changed circumstances; if this change of circumstances is being taken into account; the number of SUSI applicants who have had their application successfully reviewed on these grounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41677/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The principal support provided by the Department in financial terms is the Student Grant Scheme. Under the scheme, grant assistance is awarded to students attending an approved course in an approved institution who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for the centralised student grant awarding authority SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) to determine.

For the 2020/21 academic year, student grant applications will be assessed based on gross income from all sources for the period 1st January 2019 to 31st December 2019. However, if anystudent or party to their application experiences a change in circumstances that is not a temporary change and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, irrespective of the nature of their employment they can apply to have their application assessed under the change in circumstances provision of the relevant Student Grant Scheme. The income of all parties to the application will be assessed or reassessed on the current year (2020) and they may also be asked to provide evidence of the current year’s (2020) income.

I understand from SUSI that to date in 20/21, 49 applicants who are participating in nursing courses (that is courses mentioning “nurse” in the course title and excluding veterinary nursing) have declared a change in circumstance that mentioned Covid-19 or corona virus. Please note that this change in circumstance can relate to the student or a party to their application.

Further information in relation to student grant assistance is available from SUSI’s website, www.susi.ie. The telephone number for SUSI’s Helpdesk is 0761 087 874.

All students in higher education institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund,which assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Information on the fund is available through the Access Officer in the third level institution attended. The SAF allocation is €18.2 million for 2020/21, a record increase on previous years. This includes the once off exceptional €8.1 million provided as part of the Covid support package to help deal with the Covid-19 effect on students. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility under the fund to enable them to support students during the Covid-19 pandemic. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

This in addition to other specific Covid supports for students which I have introduced including a Covid student fund whereby qualifying students will receive a payment or credit worth €250, €15m in IT equipment grants and €3m for wellbeing and mental health.

I should also say that tax reliefat the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax office or from the Revenue Commissioners website www.revenue.ie


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