Higgins raises access and back to education crisis with Ombudsman

Labour Party President and Dáil deputy for Galway West, Michael D Higgins, has written to the Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly asking for her intervention in a matter affecting a growing number of persons seeking to enter into third level education having previously been in the workforce.

Deputy Higgins said: ”I am writing to the ombudsman as the number of people, many from Galway but also a large and growing number from across the country, who have contacted me on this matter is swelling alarmingly.

“At the time of these persons’ applications to third level, they were invited onto an Access programme aimed at those returning to education, and were informed at the time of that invitation that they could draw their unemployment allowance along with their student maintenance grant. On that basis, many chose to re-enter education.

“Now they have been informed that the maintenance grant will not be paid to them. This was their route back to education and the cut, as imposed, may affect their very right to attend. They are now being driven back to the growing unemployment mountain. In two institutions alone in Galway- NUIG and GMIT- 100 out of 200 students could be affected.

“The principle they invoke as they seek the implementation of that which was offered them is that they had a ‘reasonable expectation’ of fulfilment of the offer. This of course is the principle which was invoked by the Minister for Finance when he suggested that he could not legislate for the abolition of pensions of former office holders who may be continuing to serve in the Oireachtas.

“I have contacted the Ombudsman on this as the responses received from government on matter which is growing more urgent by the day have been utterly insufficient and indeed betray a lack of any willingness to help those who have been unfairly landed in this position directly due to the rug having pulled from under them through no fault of their own.”

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