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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 20 November, 2014

Coalition sees disagreements over student grants

While Labour TDs believe the change makes “perfect sense”, there is opposition from some Fine Gael TDs.

Image: Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland

DISCUSSIONS ARE BEING held at Cabinet level over the broadening of the means testing arrangements for student grants but there are indications of tensions between the coalition’s two parties.

Labour TDs would like to see the government follow through with a Budget 2012 decision which would include the value of capital assets and savings in the means test.

“This makes perfect sense,” Aodhán Ó Ríordáin told Morning Ireland. “It is one of the only government schemes which doesn’t take account of the capital value of savings or assets. It led to a situation where an individual who had €270,000 in his bank account but was still eligible.”

The Dublin deputy said the €336 million spend on supporting students had to be more targeted at those who do not have assets or a tradition of education in their homes.

“They should not be fishing out of the same pond as those who have,” he continued. “There are far too many eligible students. This is about having a fair system.”

The Department of Education told TheJournal.ie that the broadening of the system is “an issue of equity and fairness”.

“At a time of diminishing resources we need to ensure that the valuable student grant system is aimed at those who need it most. And equally, those who can afford to pay to go to third level do.”

However, the spokesperson added that there would be no speculation about what will happen ahead of a Cabinet decision.

Children from households with an income below €39,875 qualify for a full grant and maintenance. It is understood that assets worth more than €750,000 will be included in the future means tests.

Although the Department said the broadening of means testing “is not aimed at a particular section of the community”, farmers have reacted negatively to the proposed changes.

Fine Gael TD John Deasy told RTÉ News that income cannot be imputed from assets, adding there would be trouble if Labour pursues the issue.

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