Cork City Council has yet to make a single payment under the Higher Education Grant Scheme this year, with the majority of claimants waiting until December or even later for their first instalment. In response to a question from Sinn Fein Councillor Fiona Kerins, the City Manager also revealed that of 574 new applications received this year, only 208 have been approved.
Commenting on the delay, Cllr Kerins said:
“The Manager’s response shows that not a single payment has been made to date under the Higher Education Grant scheme by Cork City Council. The first payment to both new applicants who have been approved and renewals will not be dispatched until the 5th November.”
“What is truly shocking is that of 574 new applications received under the 2010/2011 scheme, only 208 have been awarded the grant. Of the remainder, 60 applicants have been deemed ineligible, but 201 applications have been returned seeking further information. These and the 127 applications deemed “late” will receive no payment until December. The Higher Education Grant process is a bureaucratic nightmare and the majority of these applications have been stalled simply as a result of some minor technicality.”
“Students in receipt of the Higher Education Grant are by definition on low incomes. In the current climate, many of them will be mature students returning to education in order to upskill themselves and improve their prospects of gaining employment. Without the grant, some of these will be forced to drop out of college. I am calling on the city council to temporarily reassign staff from other duties to the Higher Education Grant Section in order to process the backlog and ensure payment of the grant as early as possible.”