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15 November 2012

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Student online grants misery could have been avoided, says council

Video: Gerry Adams challenges Government in Dáil on SUSI grants crisis

USI President John Logue is arrested in the Dáil Visitors’ Gallery on Wednesday night after a protest over the SUSI chaos – Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien called for his immediate release and this subsequently happened

‘We believed our proposal met all of the criteria and that our plans and business partners would have ensured an efficient service.’

ONE of the local authorities that missed out on the opportunity to run the student grant application system has described as “untrue” any suggestion that the new system of processing grant applications is better than the previous arrangements.

The new system (known as SUSI – Student Universal Support Ireland) is being run by City of Dublin VEC (CDVEC).

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council felt they were well positioned and more than capable of providing this service. A spokesperson told An Phoblacht:

“We believed our proposal met all of the criteria and that our plans and business partners would have ensured an efficient service.”

The council’s proposal envisaged them having their system in place a year in advance so that it could undergo rigorous testing. This element of the proposal would have “guaranteed the success of the project”, they said.

Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council – who only this week was presented with an Innovative Technology award by Chambers Ireland for its system for processing Higher Education Grants – also told An Phoblacht they were “quite surprised and disappointed to see how poorly our proposal was viewed by the selection panel”.

They went on to point to the fact that they have already processed 98% of renewal applications and “all students who are entitled to a grant have received it”. The spokesperson said:

“It is important to note that SUSI are only dealing with first-time grant applicants and that all renewal grant applications are still being dealt with by local authorities and VECs.”

Despite earlier claims by the Department of Education and by the CDVEC that the problem lay in the quality of the applications provided by students (forms not filled in properly, documents or information missing, etc), Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council were adamant – it was not the fault of students.

“It is very unfortunate that the people who are suffering as a result of the current situation are the very people who are in no way to blame. We just hope the situation improves quickly and that procedures are put in place to ensure the same problems do not occur next year when the new body has to deal with both new and renewal applications at the same time.”

Asked about their recent success at the Chambers Ireland Local Authority awards and in particular receiving the Innovative Technology award for work on a grant system the official said:

“The award we recently received was for an interface between the Grantsonline system and our own grant system. This interface brought about improved service levels and efficiencies in 13 different local authorities and would certainly have been used had we been awarded the contract to run the new student grant system.”

Picture below: NUIG student supporters of Sinn Féin

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