Grant system: Minister Marcourt corrects problem to ensure system allows for “social fairness”
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    Grant system: Minister Marcourt corrects problem to ensure system allows for “social fairness”

    © Belga
    Jean-Claude Marcourt hopes the study grants regime will work in the best interests of all concerned.
    © Belga

    The Wallonia-Brussels Federation government approved today (Wednesday) a draft decree modifying the new – and controversial – study grants regime. This was put into place last summer by the Higher Education Minister, Jean-Claude Marcourt. Under fire for months from critics in student associations, the League of Families (which supports parents and families), the Walloon Network for the Fight against Poverty and even cdH politicians, all flagging up the adverse effects, Mr Marcourt (PS) has now implemented particular modifications. As he said today these “ensure a socially just application of the system.”

    Last summer’s reform was based upon comprehensive consideration of all income totals and benefits. This, in particular, fixes an income threshold of 496 euros per month, below which the student cannot obtain the grant. This threshold has arisen because the government judges it impossible for a household to meet student needs from such an amount alone.

    Criticised for the social consequences of this measure, the government decided today (Wednesday) to create, as part of the administration of such allowances, a “Commission” which will be responsible for monitoring the candidates concerned.

    The latter will check the status of a given candidate’s file with them. This will include aspects such as potential oversights of income or on the contrary the possibility of benefiting from particular social measures. Failing that, this Commission may also itself grant financial support to the given applicant.

    M. Marcourt confirmed, “Such a mechanism will allow students to meet the conditions for the granting of allowances. This procedure will be applied retroactively and thus will concern all matters which are proven to have been held up, in respect of the threshold introduced.”

    The decree adopted today also ends a provision strongly condemned in field. Thus the income of brothers and sisters of applicants entitled to a grant, as well as those of potential co-tenants will no longer, from now on, be integrated in the calculation of overall household income of the given applicant.

    In addition, the instances of payments granted in the case of changes in circumstances have been widened, in particular for debt mediation and income situations involving severance pay.

    Christopher Vincent
    The Brussels Times