IFA President John Bryan has said that assurances he has received from the Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn on the treatment of productive assets, such as farmland, for the assessment of 3rd level maintenance grants, were very important for farm families.
Mr Bryan was speaking following a meeting between IFA and the Minister for Education. He said,
“Farm families and other self-employed have been very concerned about the possibility that productive assets, such as farmland, would be factored into the assessment of income for the purpose of 3rd-level maintenance grants. As we clearly outlined to the Minister, these assets are required by self-employed businesses to generate income and are not a measure of additional ability to pay.”
He continued, “The Minister assured us of his understanding, and that of the Committee drawing up the report, of IFA’s concerns that productive assets must not be taken into account. They also recognise that there is a clear distinction between productive and ‘non-productive’ assets and this will be factored into any proposals to amend the maintenance grant system.”
The current discrimination against farm families and other self-employed in the assessment system was also raised by the IFA delegation.
IFA Farm Business Chairman Tom Doyle said, “The existing system disallows a number of legitimate expenses, including capital allowances, lease payments, stock relief and interest on borrowing for capital purposes. The Minister stated that this issue was being considered in the overall review of the maintenance grant system.”
On the matter of rural schools, IFA proposed that the appeals mechanism for small schools must take full account of the remote location of the school, and transport and other incentives must be provided in any situation where a decision is to be made. The Minister stated that this particular issue would be taken into account.
John Bryan concluded, ”The Minister and the Review Group have a responsibility to ensure whatever changes are brought in do not restrict low-income families from any sector from access to third-level education.”