Chris Lyttle MLA said: “While there has been much media interest in the reduction of money accessed from the student hardship fund, the Minister has increased funding to the Further Education awards. This has resulted in a net overall increase of £800,000 in funding to provide financial support to students.
“Both of these schemes are demand-led and the Department for Employment and Learning provides the funding for them to the colleges based on the anticipated levels of demand. Where demand exceeds the level of funding that is made available, the Department has mechanisms available to allow additional funding to be provided. These mechanisms have not been utilised during the period from 2009-2014.
“The statistics show that funding provided by the Department during this time for both the Hardship Fund and FE Awards has exceeded the amounts paid out in both schemes from 2009-14. At no time have applications to either stream been rejected by the Department due to a lack of funds.
“There are also additional sources of student support available through the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), childcare support through Care to Learn as well as the Additional Support Fund (ASF) which supports students with learning difficulties and disabilities. These are amongst the many sources of support which I hope students’ union organisations, colleges and universities, and politicians can make students aware of, along with how they can be accessed.
“The Minister has continued to produce positive outcomes for students, something that has been a key part of his time in office. Within several months of taking office he announced that tuition fees would be frozen which has allowed access to university for many students who may not have been able to go had there been an increase.”