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Written Answers. - Disadvantaged Status.

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 555 No. 4

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 91. Mr. O'Connor Information on Charlie O'Connor Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  asked the Minister for Education and Science Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey  the action he is taking to ensure that young people from disadvantaged communities are given every opportunity to attend third level colleges. [18638/02]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): Information on Noel Dempsey Zoom on Noel Dempsey There is a provision within the national development plan for a third level access fund totalling €120 million over the period 2000 to 2006 to tackle disadvantage at third level. In line with a commitment under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, my predecessor, Dr. Michael Woods established the action group on access to third level education to advise on the development of a co-ordinated strategy to increase participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, mature students and students with a disability at third level. The action group's report was published in July 2001. To date a number of measures have been taken in response to some of the main recommendations in the report.

Special rates of maintenance grant – usually referred to as “top-up” grants – payable to disadvantaged grant holders were introduced with effect from the 2000-01 academic year. Following a recent review, I increased the annual income threshold for the special rates by 32%, a significant increase. For 2002-03, I also increased the special rate of grant to €4,000 for students residing more than 15 miles from college and €1,600 for students resident within 15 miles of college. This is equivalent to a “top-up” of €1,490 and €596, respectively, for eligible students on the ordinary maintenance grant. As a result of the review, it is expected that the number of students qualifying for the “top-up” grant in 2002-03 will double to 7,000 students.

A new millennium partnership fund for disadvantage was introduced with effect from 2001. The fund provides assistance to partnership companies and community groups to develop their support schemes for students from disadvantaged families. Area Development Management (ADM) Ltd, under whose aegis the partnerships operate, accepted my Department's request that it would administer the fund for the 2001-02 academic year. The total allocation for the 2001-02 academic year was €1.2 million, with 37 partnerships and community groups receiving allocations from the fund. For 2002-03, I have [1187] increased the provision for the fund to €2 million. ADM Ltd, which is continuing to administer the fund, has notified 50 area partnerships and community groups of their allocations in respect of the 2002-03 academic year. Financial support is also available to students, in approved third level institutions, through the student assistance-access fund. The objective of the fund is to assist students who might, due to their financial circumstances, be unable to continue their third level studies. The fund is administered on a discretionary basis by each third level institution and provides direct financial support to disadvantaged students to assist them to remain on in college.

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