Fianna Fáil has launched a strong attack on upcoming changes to the assessment criteria for third level grants that unfairly target the self-employed and farming families.
Clare Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley questioned the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn during Leaders Questions in the Dáil this morning, describing this as further evidence of the Government’s unfair and unbalanced education policy.
“One of the most memorable promises that the Government broke within the first months of entering into office was its pre-election stance on third level fees. We all remember the infamous photograph of the now Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn outside Trinity College alongside members of the USI in the days before the election when he signed the pledge. The pledge was not worth the paper on which it was written. To add insult to that injury, the Government will make it more difficult for people from the self-employed sector and rural families to get student grants to help them to attend college.
“In March 2011, the Minister nailed his colours to the mast when he spoke to the Irish Farmers’ Journal. He stated: “Up until now there has been a bias towards the self-employed and the agricultural community who were able to quite frankly manipulate their income in a manner in which they could, or their children could, avail of grants”. It is this bias that allowed the Government to decide in the last budget to include farm assets in the means testing for third level grants from 2013. This will discriminate against the self-employed who are under severe financial pressure and against the children of farm families.
“This decision will put third level education beyond the reach of many people in those particular sectors. Regardless of an individual’s background, be it self-employed or farming, his or her income is based on the returns submitted to the Revenue Commissioners. This is the only fair and equitable method and is the approach taken in respect of PAYE workers. I do not accept that we can have a different set of rules for the self-employed.”
Deputy Dooley appealed to Minster Quinn to reconsider this discriminatory cut, but Minister Quinn insisted he is pressing ahead with the grant changes from next year.