Penalising Students with Disabilities when Awarded Scholarships has to Stop

I call on the government to end the unfair practice of removing disabilities supports from students who are awarded scholarships in third-level education.

It is currently the case that people with disabilities who receive a scholarship to university can lose their disability payment, and as such, lose out on access to their medical card and travel pass as well.

I have been in contact with a gifted young woman from Mayo, Catherine, who after coming first in her Masters’ course was offered a scholarship to do a PhD.

She was thrilled that her hard work had been recognised and that she would be able to continue her studies.

She has been put into the impossible situation of having to give up her scholarship in order to keep government supports.

These scholarships are usually modest amounts of money that could in no way replace the vital government supports.

For her to move out of home and rent accommodation on campus would cost €10,500 a year – using up most of the scholarship.

Now, that has to come out of her disability payment.

Most PhD students work part-time in order to get by as the stipend given as part of the scholarship is often far below minimum wage.

This is simply not an option for many people with disabilities.

On top of this, people with disabilities often have extra expenses and costs for a wide variety of reasons.

The result is that every year, students with disabilities are forced to turn down hard-won scholarships that they deserve.

We should be ensuring equity of access at all levels of education.

The government needs to live up to commitments made under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which entered into force 3 years ago.

SUSI also disadvantages students with disabilities by not allowing them to get support for part-time or online courses.

I am calling on Simon Harris as Minister for Further and Higher Education to work with his counterpart in Social Protection, Minister Heather Humphreys to remove this barrier to education.