In the Dáil today, I called on the Tánaiste to ensure students are not unfairly punished for accepting the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
It is unacceptable that students are being pushed out and denied SUSI because they accepted the PUP. No one should be penalised for accepting the PUP payments. Certainly not working students who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
If these students were working as normal or under the EWSS, they would be entitled to deduct holiday earnings of €4,500 when applying to SUSI. At the very least, this deduction should be applied to the PUP payment for students.
It is telling that the Department of Further and Higher Education only anticipates a demand for SUSI for this year in line with 2019. This is despite the State being in lockdown for much of the year and so many people out of work. This only adds up if many other students are pushed out of qualifying for SUSI as a result of accepting the PUP payment when they lost employment.
I welcome the Tánaiste’s response to me today that recognises there is a real problem here. I welcome that Minister Harris will review the matter. This needs to be done as a matter of urgency. Students across the state are waiting to find out if they will be able to afford to attend college in September.
The government must urgently empower SUSI to carry out reviews on a case-by-case basis to ensure no one is unfairly disadvantaged.