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USI Accuses Education Minister of Political Cowardice over Grants

category national | irish social forum | press release author Wednesday June 07, 2006 16:25author by Union of Students in Ireland Report this post to the editors

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has accused Education Minister Mary Hanafin of political cowardice, as students interpreted her decision to place the student grants payment system in the hands of the 33 vocational education committees (VEC) as ‘a gift of patronage’ that retains many of the flaws of the existing system.

USI ACCUSES EDUCATION MINISTER OF POLITICAL COWARDICE OVER GRANTS

7 June 2006

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has accused Education Minister Mary Hanafin of political cowardice, as students interpreted her decision to place the student grants payment system in the hands of the 33 vocational education committees (VEC) as ‘a gift of patronage’ that retains many of the flaws of the existing system.

USI has consistently maintained in meetings with the Education Minister that all responsibility for student supports should be removed from the regional VECs and vested in a single agency at national level.

USI said the decision to consolidate responsibility for student grants with the 33 regional VECs – instead of abolishing their role altogether and creating a unified system at national level – showed that Minister Hanafin is more comfortable with the political status quo than with delivering real change for vulnerable students.

USI President Tony McDonnell said: “For months Minister Hanafin has tried to convince students that her planned shake-up of the grants payment system would produce a streamlined replacement for the existing financial supports maze – but instead of this, what she has done is reward VECs for their historic mishandling of student grants by increasing their power still further.

“Under Minister Hanfin’s plans unveiled yesterday, not only are VECs rewarded for their part in a system which has regularly failed to process grant applications on time – causing hardship and misery to thousands of students every year – the Committees are licensed to carry on bungling grant applications for years to come. At the very least, the Minister must explain who she plans to charge with policing the VECs to improve their lamentable performance.

“Students of course welcome an admission that the current arrangement, in which a hodgepodge of underperforming agencies share responsibility, is utterly unsustainable. Likewise, USI cautiously welcomes the guaranteed time frames for earlier payments of grants and the independent appeals procedure for unsuccessful applicants – both of which we lobbied hard for.

“USI looks upon the new fudge as proof positive that the Minister realises USI has been right all along to highlight the inadequacies of the existing system – although she has not had the political courage to put vulnerable students ahead of incompetent local government.”

Related Link: http://www.usi.ie
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