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SVP publish proposals to reform SUSI grants scheme

SVP publish proposals to reform SUSI grants scheme which it says is not fully fit for purpose

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul has submitted a series of proposals to reform the SUSI grant scheme.

Among the proposals made by SVP to a review being conducted by the  Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science are that:
  • income thresholds should reflect average incomes and poverty thresholds and be indexed on an annual basis in line  with these benchmarks
  • grants should be calculated on net income rather than gross income, considering childcare and other household expenses.
  • maintenance grant rates should increase in line with the cost of living and be indexed to the consumer price index on an annual basis.
  • cuts made in 2011 & 2012 should be reversed
  • adjacent grant distance of 24km should be restored
  • eligibility should be expanded to part-time students.
  • anomaly should be addressed by which lone parents and people with a disability in receipt of Rent Supplement and other Social Protection grants are not eligible for SUSI maintenance.

Marcella Stakem, SVP Social Justice Policy Officer said,” SVP recognises and appreciates that the SUSI grant is an important support to students throughout their time in college. However there are clear inadequacies that exist that make the scheme not fully fit for purpose.

Almost 100,000 SUSI applications are received annually and almost 80,000 grants are awarded, representing €350 million annually.

“In the current academic year approximately 4,000 more people applied for the SUSI grant, which clearly highlights the demand during these challenging times, economically and socially.” said Marcella Stakem.

SVP National President Rose McGowan said that "SVP members continue to see persistent social inequality in education at all levels. In particular low-income and disadvantaged households are significantly underrepresented at higher education and are heavily reliant on the provision of grants from the state.”

The 2017 statistics from the Higher Education Authority show that in some parts of Dublin the rate of young people who progress onto higher education is just 15%. This compares to over 90% in more affluent areas of the capital.

“ A core aim of SVP is to address the root causes of poverty and empower people to move out of poverty for good by supporting access to education”, said Rose McGowan.

She said that SVP has established an education bursary scheme which helps low income students with the cost of fees, accommodation, transport, books and material. For the current academic year seven SVP regional committees received over 800 applications.

“Without this support many students simply would not be able to pursue their education. An evaluation of our education bursary scheme last year showed that all of the students supported were in receipt of  the SUSI grant. In addition over 2,000 students participating in further and higher education contacted SVP local Conferences requesting help with general living expenses and costs directly related to education.

“Our members also work with Universities, Institutes of Technology and Colleges to promote access and ensure that students can participate successfully.

“Based on our work in the communities across the country, we see the importance of education in breaking the cycle of poverty. When someone from a disadvantaged background beats the odds and gets a place in college, financial barriers should not be put in their way.  Our education system should ensure the very best outcomes for everyone, regardless of family income”, she said.
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