herald

Monday 26 September 2016

Homeless mum distraught as Trinity dreams crushed

Erica Fleming who has been accepted into Trinity College with her 9 year old daughter Emily.
Erica Fleming who has been accepted into Trinity College with her 9 year old daughter Emily.
Trinity College Dublin

Homeless mum Erica Fleming has revealed her heartbreak at having her dreams of attending Trinity College dashed because she failed to qualify for a vital grant.

Erica (30) has been accepted to the prestigious college through the Trinity Access Programme and is due to begin in September, but has been refused the Back to Education Allowance.

Erica has been homeless for around a year with her daughter Emily (10) and they have been living in hotel rooms.

She has now learned that her plans study and become a social worker have been stalled - because she has been working part-time.

"When I saw the letter [rejecting the application] I was sick. I was so angry," she added.

"I want to have a degree behind me and go on to get a career so I can move away from the social welfare.

"I want to buy my own house and never have to rely on any government department ever again," she said.

Astonishingly, she was told that in order to qualify for the allowance, she would have to be unemployed for 234 days.

Ms Fleming has appealed directly to Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar to help and allow her, and other single parents, to achieve their college dreams.

"I would certainly ask Leo Varadkar to see the bigger picture," she said.

"I know that it's not his policy, but I would certainly hope he sees that her [Joan Burton's] policy was 100pc wrong when it came to lone parents and that we deserve a chance.

"Without the support of the Government and without the help of the social welfare I will never get to college. I will never achieve my dream. I'll never be able to afford to do it," she said.

Last year, Erica lost her One Parent Family Payment and transferred to Family Income Supplement.

This followed changes to the allowances by then Minister for Social Welfare Joan Burton.

However, while receiving the One Parent Family Payment would have qualified her for the Back to Education Allowance, receiving the Family Income Supplement does not.

Ms Fleming said that she needed the €217 a week from the allowance to support herself and her daughter.

Excitement

Erica was due to study several modules including social studies, law and politics. She is due to meet with Trinity College next week to discuss what to do next.

Ms Fleming also spoke of her excitement when she found out she had been accepted.

A recent trip to Trinity College with her daughter made her "stomach flip" with excitement.

"She's so proud of me. So I'm showing my daughter if I can go to Trinity, she can go to Trinity," she said.

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