Some students that are single parents are set to lose their SUSI maintenance grants as changes to social welfare payments come in to effect this July.
Lone parent students with children aged seven or older could lose up to €657 per month as changes to the one parent family payment mean they will no longer qualify for the maintenance grant.
Recipients of the payment who have a child aged seven or older will be moved on to jobseeker’s allowance or the back to education allowance, if in full-time education.
This switch of payments means that single parents will not be able to receive both the back to education allowance and SUSI maintenance grant at the same time.
Up until now, it was possible for single parents to receive both payments.
Single parent students could receive a maintenance grant if they gave up their back to education allowance, but if they did so, they would be worse-off financially.
This group of single parents will be able to apply for a SUSI grant to cover their fees, but they will not automatically be entitled to it.
32,000 single parents will be affected by the changes to the one parent family payment, but the exact number of those single parents who are in third-level education is unknown.
The newly-elected Student’s Union President at Trinity College Dublin has branded the changes of payment ‘anti-education’ and ‘anti-woman’.
Lynn Ruane, a single mother who is set to lose €135 per month herself, described the changes as “a step backwards for gender equality, in terms of women moving on with education and gaining employment.”
Some ninety-eight percent of the one parent family payment are female, according to figures obtained from One Family.
Ruane said Tanaiste Joan Burton dismissed the issue when it was raised at ministerial questions.
“I did have it raised at ministerial questions and Joan Burton is trying to pass it off on the Minister for Education. She did try to say that it’s an irrelevant amount of women it impacts,” she said.
Ruane also said that university officials play an important role in lobbying the government to reverse this change in payments.
She told The College View that, “I think that colleges should actually start to act. There are directors of diversity in colleges. Trinity College has a director of diversity and it should be their role to be protecting those people from diverse backgrounds.”
She added “we wouldn’t appear to be such a minority group if people actually knew that was happening.”
A spokesman for One Family said “this further disadvantages one-parent families on low incomes with limited resources and high levels of caring responsibilities. It will be too much for many who will now not take up education and training opportunities as a result.”