Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 28th June 2021.
T4. Mr Sheehan asked the Minister for the Economy whether, at this late stage, he will consider extending the COVID disruption payment to those students who have been excluded, particularly because, despite the welcome announcement from Queen’s and Ulster University that they will provide additional grant support to low-income students, up to 75% of students have received no support at all, and it is deeply frustrating that so many students have been excluded. (AQT 1484/17-22)
I thank the Member for his question, which is very important. The Economy Committee and a number of other MLAs wrote to former Minister Dodds, following the recent Assembly motion, requesting an update on whether she intended to expand the COVID disruption payment scheme to further education students, part-time students and Northern Ireland-domiciled students studying in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Minister Dodds previously set out the policy rationale for not including FE students or part-time students in the scheme. Officials sought legal advice on the potential legislative barriers to expanding the payment to Northern Ireland students studying elsewhere, which are in addition to the operational, practical hurdles in place, and have submitted full briefing to me to allow me to respond in detail to the Economy Committee in the first instance. I will assess that, as I am assessing all aspects of the Department, in the coming days and weeks.
Time is up. I ask Members to take their ease before the next item of business.
(Mr Principal Deputy Speaker [Mr Stalford] in the Chair)