Video: Man left homeless in Cookstown after funding decision

A man who was left profoundly disabled after a car accident moved to Cookstown from the Republic to complete a course, but found himself entitled to little help from the state.

Gerard Haugh, a student at the South-West College in Cookstown came to study for a Foundation Degree in engineering and manufacturing. He’d enjoyed a successful career as a senior civil engineer foreman, working on top projects, but wanted the opportunity to better himself after his car accident in Co Mayo in 2009 in which he sustained catastrophic injuries including a broken back.

INMU0714-VOXPOP-Gerard Haugh

INMU0714-VOXPOP-Gerard Haugh

Gerard enquired what the situation would be with regard to financial assistance with his course and housing, and was confident he would secure funding. However in October after he’d moved, the SELB made the decision that he would not be recognised as a disabled student here and that he had no entitlements or rights given the three year residency rule. Now he finds himself in the MUST Hostel for the homeless.

A spokesperson for the SELB said there are various residence criteria which must be satisfied for a student to be eligible to be considered for student finance.

“If an individual does not have settled status and was not ordinarily resident in the UK for three years prior to the commencement of the first year of their course, nor were they a person of settled status who had exercised a right of discretion to live in the ROI and then returned to the UK, they would not be eligible for support on residence grounds,” said the spokesperson.

The Education (Student Support) Regulations (NI) states that a student who fulfils the residence criterion i.e. EC national who has not been resident in UK for three years but was resident in the EC, does not qualify for assistance from the Disabled Students’ Allowance or for other student finance.