Uncertainty surrounds SUSI grants for single parent students

The Department of Social Protection confirmed that single parents in full-time education will be permitted to keep both their one parent family payment and SUSI grant from July onwards.

Changes to the one parent family payment will see single parents with children aged older than seven moved on to jobseekers allowance from this July.

Single parents already in full –time education will not be affected by these changes, a spokeswoman for the Department of Social Protection confirmed.

“All of the customers affected by the OFP reforms in July 2015 who are in education and in receipt of a SUSI grant will be able to complete their course and continue to receive both the maintenance and tuition portion of the SUSI grant, subject to the normal conditions of the grant,” said spokeswoman Veronica Scanlon.

She also said that the changes were being made as the one parent family payment was not successful in encouraging single parents to return to work.

Scanlon said, “despite the significant investment in the One Family Payment scheme over the years, the results have been disappointing in poverty terms for lone parents even when our economy was doing well.

“The best route out of poverty and social exclusion is through fairly-paid employment. The reforms aim to reduce long-term social welfare dependency among lone parents with a view to developing their skills set and assisting them into sustainable employment, whilst simultaneously acknowledging their specific caring responsibilities,” she added.

Scanlon confirmed that single parent students embarking on full-time education from 2015 can apply for a SUSI grant for fees, but will not be eligible for the maintenance component of the grant.

She said that single parents will be moved on to the back to education allowance instead.

Some 30,000 single parents currently receive the one parent family payment, of which 1,100 also receive a SUSI grant.

Almost all recipients of the one parent family payment are female, with the figure standing at 98 percent.

There has been an air of uncertainty around these welfare payment changes, with single parents in education believing that they could have been out of pocket by up to €657 per month.

When The College View approached the Department of Social Protection for confirmation regarding the SUSI grants for single parents last month, our claims were not disputed.

Many single parent students were told by welfare officials that they would lose their SUSI maintenance grant from July of this year.

A spokesman for One Family said, “we are hearing from parents about gaps in knowledge in many social welfare local offices where staff are not familiar with the impacts of the changes to the one parent family payment.

“This can lead to a provision of inadequate or incorrect information to lone parents and causes unnecessary worry and stress for one-parent families,” said spokesman Stuart Duffin.

“If a job is the route way out of poverty, then access to education is the ladder,” he added.

Laura Colgan

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