Local TD Denis Naughten has described as “totally unacceptable” the situation where only 6 per cent of applications made through the new centralised SUSI online processing system for student grants have been approved.
“It is clear that the new Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI ) system, launched last June, is unable to cope with the volume of work and as a result students and their families are suffering.
“Presently, it is nearly impossible to even find out what exactly is going on with an application, never mind have a decision made on it. People contacting the SUSI helpdesk have been provided with inaccurate or vague information and there also seems to be very poor communication between the colleges and SUSI,” said Deputy Naughten.
The Dáil was told this week that SUSI has received 65,000 applications for higher education grants with just over half or 35,000 expected to be approved.
According to Deputy Naughten, 5,000 late applications are currently awaiting initial assessment. Almost 10,000 applications have been refused or have been cancelled by the applicants. In over 16,000 cases, no response has been received from the students to requests for supporting documentation. Almost 20,000 sets of documents are awaiting validation, and of these 17,500 cases, incorrect or incomplete documentation has been submitted at least once. To date 4,000 applications have been awarded, with more than 2,000 having been provisionally awarded, pending submission of course acceptance forms. Approximately 4,500 are being reviewed by SUSI and a further 4,000 have had additional information requested from the students involved.
SUSI has also received 1,019 appeals to date.
“Students and their families are already under serious financial pressure and this delay is placing an even greater financial burden on homes throughout the country,” said Deputy Naughten.
“It is fine and well introducing a new system which in theory will be more efficient, but parents are suffering and it is now time for Minister Quinn to put people rather than processes first.
“I would therefore urge the Education Minister to take a direct hands on approach to the matter and have the backlog shifted, as his former ministerial colleague, Roisin Shortall did with the medical card backlog after it was centralised,” he concluded.