USI threatens legal action over grant queries

Wednesday 19 September 2012 23.26
USI threatens to initiate legal action if grants are withheld
USI threatens to initiate legal action if grants are withheld

The Union of Students of Ireland has said it will initiate legal proceedings against any local authority that withholds a student grant over failure to provide evidence of the Household Charge payment.

USI President John Logue said third-level grants are for students alone and have no link to the parents of an applicant other than for assessing household income.

Clare and Tipperary South County Councils have both sought proof from higher level grant applicants that the Household Charge had been paid.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Pat Kenny, Mr Logue said that such tactics sought to force young people to police their parents in relation to the payment of the charge, which he said is a matter for the courts.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach said that Clare County Council was not entitled in law to refuse or withhold part of the third-level grant where the charge is unpaid.

Speaking in the Dáil, he defended the council’s right to inquire about whether households paid the charge.

Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn told a Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting this morning that he is not resiling from the response he gave yesterday on the matter.

He said it was not unreasonable for people looking for support from the taxpayer to have paid their tax, which is legally due.

However, Mr Quinn said he had not given any consideration yet to what the implications of this might be.

According to the Department of the Environment, councils cannot withhold third-level grants from students on foot if non-payment of the household charge, but they are legally entitled to withhold council related grants.

A spokesman for South Tipperary County Council said the council had asked applicants for housing grants such as mobility grants whether they had paid the household charge but the council would not delay or withhold the grants on foot of it.

Elsewhere, Longford County Council has said the charge is a legal charge that local authorities are required to collect and it is considering all options to ensure compliance.

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