I am calling on Minister Harris to reconsider and change course on the inclusion of the PUP payment in the income assessment for SUSI. At the very least, it should be counted at the rate of jobseekers given it is a temporary emergency payment.
Many families have lost jobs and income since March 2020. If this isn’t done, then families across the state will be punished for accepting the Pandemic Unemployment Support.
If they apply for SUSI on their current circumstances, the family income will count the PUP payment even though it is scheduled to end on the 30th of June this year.
I have raised this issue repeatedly with Minister Harris. To date, he has failed to answer the question on whether his department have even conducted an assessment on the number of people this will impact.
It is telling that the Department of Further and Higher Education only anticipates a demand for SUSI for this year the in line with 2019 despite the State being in lockdown for much of the year and so many people out of work. This only adds up if many others will be pushed out of qualifying.
I welcome certain changes to the SUSI application announced today such as the inclusion of the Fuel and Living Alone allowances on income disregards.
However, many are still overlooked. Widow and Widower pensions are still not included in as an income disregard. I have been in contact with a mother in Mayo with two sons in college. They don’t qualify because she receives a Widow’s Pension – and she doesn’t know how see can continue to send both children to college.
At a time when we have had so much loss due to Covid-19, we cannot have a situation where a family must give up on the hope of sending children to third-level because they have tragically lost a partner, father, or mother.
Mature students and students with complex needs are still disadvantaged by SUSI criteria. I will be making a substantial submission to the SUSI review highlighting these and many other issues.
The Minister needs to act now and not wait for the review where the injustice is clear and within his gift to change.