independent

Saturday 17 August 2019

Holding people to ransom over charge

DEBORAH COLEMAN

AS IF times are not difficult enough for families putting third level students through college, now some councils are expecting them to provide proof that they have paid their household charge before grants will be released.

Minister Phil Hogan came out in defence of this practice and said that this sort of action is 'what any business would do'.

Did it occur to the powers that be, that families might not have paid this ludicrous charge in the first place because they cannot afford to.

Every Euro is precious these days and if one qualifies for a third level grant surely this is evidence enough that money is tight in their household.

In many families there are more children at home or in education than the grant candidate and this assistance is vital to ensure they can attend college.

For the majority of candidates they would be forced to drop out without it.

It also must be noted that the grant recipient is most likely not the homeowner so is not directly responsible for paying the household charge, if they are lucky enough to benefit from the many services the government argues it provides.

It is a step backwards to hold people to ransom over this charge and it is wrong to link it to grant assistance.

If they are so intent on making a point, then deduct €100 from the grant but don't expect a household to pay it upfront because often they simply might not be able to.

It is also ridiculous that the Department of Education and Skills was not informed of this practice and that different councils are handling the payment of grants in different ways across the country.

Why should someone in County Clare or Tipperary be obliged to produce this paperwork when their counterparts across the country do not?

It's the same old story that the most vulnerable are being picked on by the bullies.

If this move causes students to miss out on the education which they are entitled to and a college place that they have slogged hard to achieve then they will have been shamefully failed by this country.

It is a ' hand to mouth' move that offers no long term benefit only impacting on those who could help clean up the mess we are in for the next generation.

Turning the screw in this manner will not only deprive those opposed to the charge of their right to protest against it but could catch powerless students in the crossfire.

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