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Student grants: Barring orders will no longer be accepted as proof that parents are separated

Barring orders were included on a list of acceptable documentation students could use to prove their parents were separated.

Image: Shutterstock/Roman Motizov

BARRING ORDERS ARE to be removed from the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) indicative list of documents used to confirm whether parents of a student are divorced or separated.

A letter from the Secretary General of the Department of Education Seán Ó Foghlú confirms that having “reviewed its processes” SUSI has decided to remove barring orders as evidence of proof of separation.

A barring order is a court order usually issued in response to a complaint of domestic violence. It can apply to a person’s spouse or civil partner and requires that the person leave the home.

In the case of a dependent student, the income of the applicant and his or her parents are taken into account in determining whether the student qualifies for a grant.

However, it becomes more difficult when student’s parents are divorced or legally separated.

Concerns were raised previously at the Dáil Public Accounts Committee regarding the evidence SUSI asks from for students involved difficult family situations.

Ó Foghlú sets out in his letter to the PAC that when SUSI had satisfactorily established that parents were separated in any specific case, the income of the student applicant and of the parent who they live with is taken into account.

The type of evidence required is dependent on the applicant’s individual circumstances, states the secretary general, who adds that evidence of separation must be provided to allow SUSI to fully satisfy itself that the conditions for the application are met.

“SUSI, in assessing the evidence presented, will have regard to the particular circumstances in each case and the corroborative nature of the evidence available to support the claim of separation,” he states. 

“Ultimately, it is a matter for SUSI to determine what evidence it will accept as proof of separation. However, the scheme does not stipulate precisely how SUSI satisfies itself.

This is to allow the applicant sufficient flexibility to provide the necessary corroborating evidence and likewise, to give SUSI flexibility in terms of its assessment process in these difficult cases,” says the secretary general.

SUSI provides a list of documents that are considered as evidence of separation, he explains in the letter, stating that “ultimately, the onus is on the grant applicant to provide the necessary documentary evidence to support his/her application”.

Students are required to supply one or more documents to prove that their parents are living separately. 

He goes on to confirm that SUSI has reviewed its processes and has decided to remove barring orders from its list of allowed documents.

The Chair of the PAC, Fianna Fáil’s Sean Fleming, has previously said the committee was “alarmed” to hear SUSI might be looking for details of barring orders, stating that they  come from the family law courts and are not meant to be public. 

While he noted that barring orders are not specifically requested by SUSI, there are concerns about such orders being included in an indicative list the applicant can provide.

He welcomed the news that such documentation is to be removed from the list.

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