USI highlight Student Support Bill ahead of Dáil dissolution

The Union of Students of Ireland (USI) has pushed for the Student Support Bill to be passed before the upcoming dissolution of the Dáil.The bill aims to streamline the grant system that is currently in place by centralising the sixty-six different bodies that currently award third-level grants into one main entity.The Student Support Bill was originally introduced in 2008, but was delayed as a result of a Griffith College student taking a legal case against the state regarding his eligability for a grant.USI Deputy President Cónán Ó Broin described the current third level grant system as “a very unwieldy way of doing things in such a small country” which results in “students’ grants, depending on which county they’re coming from or which VEC they fall under, being delayed by up to six or even nine months.”This is why Ó Broin feels that “a centralised grant awarding authority has been an objective of USI and the student movement in this country for a very long time”.The former TCD Students’ Union President stated that “students on the grant will get their grants far quicker and more efficiently” as a result of the bill and “the process will hopefully be made a lot more simple.”USI is hopeful that the bill will “be signed by the president  before she dissolves the Dáil sometime in the new year.”Ó Broin expressed concern that the bill might be held up at the committee stage but explains that USI has been working “very hard” over the past couple of days to prevent this happening, insisting that “we’re keeping a very close eye on it and making sure that it does go through; if it does get enacted we want to see the grant system streamlined because at the end of the day, students depend on it.”According to Ó Broin, the bill is currently on its sixtieth amendment and is moving “pretty fast.” USI President Gary Redmond echoed Ó Broin, saying: “In the current economic climate, ensuring that students get their grants in a timely manner is vital given that many students are unable to find part time work to supplement their income.”USI hopes to get the bill implemented in time for the beginning of the next academic year, but this is “a tall order” according to Ó Broin. He went on to state that USI will “see what we can do.”