The Department of Social Protection provides a wide range of second chance education opportunities for unemployed people, lone parents and people with disabilities.
The Department's objective in this area is to raise educational and skills levels among the unemployed, in order to help them to meet the requirements of the labour market. Studies have shown that there is a strong link between unemployment and educational attainment and this Department's Back To Education Programme was introduced to provide a comprehensive range of options from which an unemployed person can choose, or be directed to, the most appropriate for his/her needsThe Back To Education Programme range from basic foundation courses through to certain postgraduate university courses, and are:
1.2 Information Leaflet & application form
The Back to Education Programme Information booklet is the SW70 and application form is the BTE1. Further details are available on the website www.welfare.ie.
Note: The Back to Education Allowance Scheme, which is administrative, is under constant review to ensure that it remains relevant to labour market conditions and keeps its focus on helping those most marginalised in terms of employability. Accordingly it is not a function of the Back To Education scheme to support, or detract from, what is characterised as a normal trajectory through the education and CAO systems. In this context the eligibility criteria, for participation in the scheme, is subject to change from time to time. For current information on the schemes eligibility conditions, please consult with your Social Welfare Local Office or Employment Support Services, Back to Education Schemes, Shannon Lodge, Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim.
The Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) is a non-statutory stand alone scheme approved by Government. Government Decision S.29416 of 8 October 1996 refers.
The Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) Scheme is administered by:
Employment Support Services
Back to Education Schemes
Carrick on Shannon
1.5 Description of Scheme
The Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) is an educational opportunities scheme for persons in receipt of certain social welfare payments and who wish to pursue an approved full-time second or third level course of education in an approved college leading to a recognised qualification:
In order to qualify for the BTEA scheme it is necessary for a person to be
- Attending a recognised course of study at second or third level study option.
- Attending a full-time day course of study in a recognised college with which the Department of Education & Skills have a funding relationship and leading to a recognised qualification.
- a specific age.
- in receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment for a specified period of time.
- must be in general commencing the first year of a course of study (see 1.14.9).
- The course must be leading to a progression of qualifications held by the person who wishes to participate in BTEA. (see 1.10)
These conditions are explained in more detail later in these guidelines.
1.6 Study Options available
There are two study options available under the Back to Education Allowance Scheme:
- Second Level Option (SLO)
- Third Level Option (TLO)
Note: FETAC courses are considered for BTEA purposes to be Second level Option courses and HETAC level courses are considered under the rules governing Third Level Option (TLO)
1.7 Second Level Option (SLO)
A person may attend a full time second level course of education at any Community, Comprehensive, Secondary, Vocational school or Institute of Technology with which the Department of Education have a funding relationship. The course being pursued must be a full-time day course of study and lead to a qualification that is:
- recognised by the Department of Education & Skills,
- awarded by the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC)
Examples of the type of courses covered are:
- Junior Certificate
- Leaving Certificate ( Repeat LC maybe allowed for persons who are at least 23 years of age on the 1st January of the year of re-entry)
- Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC)
- Foundation/Access courses at Universities or Institutes of Technology. Some colleges offer such courses with FETAC award. Other colleges will have "in house" award i.e. Certificate is awarded by college.
- Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) awards
- Business & Technology Education Council (BTEC) awards
- Vocational Education Committee i.e. VEC awards its own certification
In addition to existing Access/Foundation courses, approval may be given to preparatory 3rd level courses of at least 18 week’s duration requiring full-time commitment and conferring a Special Purpose Award of a minimum of 30 credits that accumulate towards the student’s chosen third level qualification. Second Level courses in the UK and Northern Ireland may also be approved provided they lead to a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ).
Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC):
In the majority of courses, the qualification awarding body determines if course is second level or third level i.e. FETAC is second level and HETAC (Higher Education and Training Awards Council) is third level. Applicant is requested, on BTE1, to state the awarding body of the qualification being pursued. However, if there is any doubt regarding the level of qualification or the awarding body, the school/college/institute should be contacted to confirm.
A wide range of qualifications are validated by FETAC e.g. FETAC Certificate (Levels 1 to 5) and Advanced Certificate (Level 6) and may, if full-time, be pursued under the Second Level Option of the BTEA scheme.
Comprehensive details of all FETAC awards can be obtained from the National Framework of Qualifications website . This also gives details of third level qualifications i.e. HETAC
An overview of qualifications can be printed down from the NFQ website: http://www.nfq.ie/nfq/en/FanDiagram/nqai_nfq_08.html
In whereas FETAC awards are generally second level, BTEC awards can be either second or third level. BTEC is a British educational awards body and, at present, there is no definite alignment between BTEC awards and Rep. of Ireland awarding bodies. Following consultation with the National Qualifications Authorities of Ireland (NQAI) which is now known as Quality & Qualifications Ireland (QQI), the following criteria regarding BTEC awards applies:
- BTEC National Diploma is considered second level
- BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) is considered third level
1.8 Third Level Option ( TLO)
A person may attend an approved third level course of education at any university or third level college or institution. The course must be a full-time day course of study which is recognised
- by the Department of Education and Skills for Higher Education Grant Scheme, or
- the Vocational Education Committee's Scholarship Scheme, or
- the Third Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees, or
- has Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) recognition
1.8.1 Postgraduate Study
From 1 January 2003, the postgraduate option of the Back To Education Allowance is payable only to persons who wish to pursue a postgraduate course of study that leads to a Higher Diploma (H.Dip.) qualification in any discipline or to persons in pursuit of a Professional Diploma in Education hitherto known as a Graduate Diploma in Education (Primary & Secondary Teaching) [NVQ Level 8].
- Other types of postgraduate qualifications are not recognised for BTEA purposes. e.g. Masters, MA, MSc, M.Phil etc. However, there is an exception to the eligibility rule for Masters based solely on ‘life experience’ whereby a person is admitted to a Masters programme without a primary degree. The person needs confirmation from the college detailing the basis of their offer of a college place and confirming that it excludes the requirement to hold a primary degree or diploma. A small number of cases have arisen where a college has granted an exemption from the requirement to hold a primary degree and has admitted a person to a Master’s course on the basis of relevant life experience. In the context of the ongoing review of the operation of the scheme, it was decided to extend entitlement to back to education allowance in these instances on an exceptional basis. Under no circumstances will BTEA be awarded to a person who already holds a postgraduate qualification
1.8.2 Third level study outside of Ireland
Full-time day undergraduate courses in European Union countries which are recognised for Higher Education Grant purposes may also be considered for the Back to Education Allowance. Only postgraduate courses in Ireland are eligible for the BTEA scheme.
1.9 Qualifying Conditions for SLO & TLO
To qualify for the Back to Education Allowance (second level or third level option), a person must secure a place on an approved course (as specified above) and satisfy the following conditions immediately prior to the commencement of the first year of the course (see 1.14.9):
(A) at least 21 years of age (at least 24 years of age for an approved postgraduate qualification)
in receipt of one of the following social welfare payments for at least 3 months ( 78 days) for Second Level Option (SLO) and 9 months (234 days) for Third Level Option (TLO). [Linking rules may apply 1.11 and also see section 1.12]
Note: strict adherence to the condition in relation to qualifying days will be applied in all cases
- Jobseekers Allowance
- Jobseekers Benefit
- Farm Assist
- One-Parent Family Payment
- Deserted Wife's Allowance
- Deserted Wife's Benefit
- Widow's/Widower's Non-Contributory Pension
- Widow's/Widower's Contributory Pension
- Prisoners Wife's Allowance
- Carer's Allowance
(B) be at least 18 years of age
in receipt of one the following social welfare payments for at least 3 months ( 78 days) for Second Level Option (SLO) and 9 months for Third Level Option (TLO)
- Disability Allowance
- Blind Pension
- Invalidity Pension
- Incapacity Supplement (based on a Life Disablement Pension)
(C) Aged 18 and under 21 and out of formal education for at least 2 years. Periods spent on FÁS/Fáilte Ireland full-time Training Courses, FÁS Job Initiative, Youth Reach or Job Assist can count towards the relevant qualifying period and may be regarded as periods out of formal education.
In receipt of Jobseekers Allowance, Jobseekers Benefit or One-Parent Family Payment for at least 3 months (( see note 1) 78 days of unemployment) for Second Level Option (SLO) and 9 months (( see note 1) 234 days of unemployment) for Third Level Option (TLO).
(D) In receipt of Illness Benefit for 2 years or more (2 year rule effective from September 2007)
Note 1: Sunday shall not be treated as a day of unemployment.
1.10 Progression in education course
The approved full-time education course must lead to a higher qualification on the National Framework of Qualifications other than that already held. Existing graduates should not have an entitlement to BTEA to pursue a course at a similar qualification level as, inter alia; this can lead to displacement of persons seeking such qualifications for the first time. Reference should be made to the National Framework of Qualifications (see appendix 3) e.g. If a person holds a Fetac level 5 qualification, they must be progressing to a level 6 qualification. A person holding a level 7 degree can only apply for a level 8 add- on year (honours bachelor degree) in the same discipline and is not eligible for new level 8 degree course in a different discipline.
1.11 Linking Periods
Periods spent on BTEA qualifying Social Welfare Payments or on Jobseekers/Illness Benefit credits, that are not broken by more than 12 months (52 weeks), can be used in determining if an applicant satisfies the qualifying period criteria.
1.12 Other Schemes that count towards the qualifying period for BTEA
Periods spent on the BTEA, Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS), Full-time FÁS/Fáilte Ireland Training Course, FIT, Community Employment Scheme, Part-time Job Incentive Scheme, Community Services Programme, Rural Social Scheme, Tus, National Internship, WPP, Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, Short-term Enterprise Allowance, FÁS Job Initiative or Job Assist may count towards the qualifying period for BTEA purposes. This provision applies only in cases where the BTEA applicant has an underlying entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment immediately prior to commencement of their course. In the case where a person drops out of one of these schemes, a case officer should recommend BTEA as better intervention. IQAs on these schemes are not eligible for BTEA.
- Period spent on Youth Reach can count towards the qualifying period for BTEA provided the person establishes an entitlement to a relevant social welfare payment prior to, or after completion of Youth Reach programme.
- Periods spent in prison can be taken as, or count towards the qualifying period for BTEA once an entitlement to a relevant Social Welfare Payment has been established.
- Time spent on Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) or Direct Provision from the Health Service Executive can count towards the qualifying period for BTEA. This applies only in circumstances where the person establishes an entitlement to a relevant Social Welfare payment immediately prior to commencing an approved course of study and satisfies the linking rules.
- Persons awarded Statutory Redundancy under Irish legislation may have immediate access to the BTEA scheme, (or within one year of the award of the Statutory Redundancy), provided an entitlement to a relevant Social Welfare payment is established immediately prior to commencement of an approved course of study.
1.13 BTEA and Illness Benefit
Periods spent on Illness Benefit can count towards the 3 month (78 days ) qualifying period for Second Level Option (SLO) and the 9 month (234 days) for Third Level Option (TLO), provided that at least 50% of the qualifying period was spent on the relevant Social Welfare Payment that actually qualifies the person for participation in the BTEA Scheme. ( For e.g. if a person is applying for BTEA from a jobseekers payment for a TLO course, they must have a total of 9 months, half of which must be from the relevant jobseekers claims and the balance can be IB)
However, this requirement will be relaxed for persons who previously were in receipt of Illness Benefit and qualified for another illness related payment such as Invalidity Pension or Disability Allowance prior to applying for BTEA.
In the case of Illness Benefit recipients, periods spent on other BTEA relevant qualifying payments (JA/JB etc.) can be used to make up the 2 year qualifying period provided that at least 50% of the 2 years (12 months) is IB.
1.14 Special Provisions
1.14.1 BTEA Eligibility to both partners:
The Qualified Adult Dependent of a person who has an existing entitlement to the Back to Education Allowance can qualify for BTEA in their own right for the duration of an approved course of study. This provision applies to all BTEA relevant social welfare payments where there is an increase in respect of a Qualified Adult Dependent in payment.
To qualify under this option, the applicant must be a Qualified Adult Dependent (for the required qualifying period i.e. 3 months for SLO, 9 months for TLO (2 years in case of IB recipients)) of a person who satisfies the eligibility criteria for participation in the BTEA scheme immediately prior to the commencement of the approved course of study.
The Qualified Adult Dependent, in such cases, is entitled to the IQA rate of the relevant Social Welfare payment that the claimant is in receipt of.
In effect, this provision allows the Social Welfare claimant and his/her Qualified Adult Dependent to qualify independently for participation in the Back to Education Allowance Scheme.
Note: Periods spent in receipt of a Qualified Adult Allowance may not be added to periods in receipt of a personal rate of social welfare payment in order to link a claim to qualify for Back to Education .
1.14.2 VTOS more than two years:
The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) is payable for a maximum of 2 years only. In circumstances where a person has undertaken a course/qualification that is in excess of 2 years while on VTOS, BTEA (Second Level Option) is payable for the remainder of the course/qualification. The SWLO should ensure that the person has an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment prior to commencing the course and that the person is progressing in educational qualifications in the following academic year. Once this has been established BTEA may be approved from the beginning of the new academic year.
1.14.3 Signing arrangements:
Jobseekers’ Allowance or Jobseekers’ Benefit recipients who qualify for participation on BTEA are not required to sign-on the Live Register while attending an approved course of study. The prior approval of the department must always be sought by JA and JB recipients for participating on any course of education. Failure to seek this approval may result in an overpayment and possible prosecution.
1.14.4 Half rate JB & BTEA :
A BTEA participant who was in receipt of One-Parent Family Payment, Deserted Wife's Allowance, Deserted Wife's Benefit, Widow's/Widower's Non-Contributory Pension or Widow's/Widower's Contributory Allowance or Prisoners Wife's Allowance are paid at the maximum rate for the duration of the course. These are considered to be the primary Social Welfare payment and BTEA is awarded on the basis of these payments. In certain circumstances s/he may also be in receipt of half rate Jobseekers Benefit (JB). Half rate JB may continue to be paid in respect of days of unemployment only, until entitlement to JB exhausts in the normal way. The half rate payment ceased for new applicants from 02 February 2012.
1.14.5 Top up on Jobseekers Benefit:
If a person is in receipt of a reduced rate One-Parent Family Payment, Deserted Wife's Allowance, Deserted Wife's Benefit, Widow's/Widower's Non-Contributory Pension, Widow's/Widower's Contributory Pension or Prisoners Wife's Allowance and is also being paid in excess of half rate Jobseekers Benefit (JB) by way of a "top up Payment", the JB payment is reduced to half rate on commencement of BTEA.
1.14.6 Qualifying for BTEA from "credits only":
Back to Education Allowance participants who were in receipt of "credits only" on commencement of Back to Education Allowance may satisfy the contribution conditions for Jobseekers Benefit on the commencement of a new Governing Contribution Year. These participants are entitled to receive Back to Education Allowance from the date on which these conditions are satisfied.
Previously those who qualified for BTEA from a credit only basis were entitled to receive a €300 cost of education allowance. The cost of education allowance has been discontinued for new existing BTEA participants from 1 January 2013 so no allowance is payable.
1.14.7 Repeat years:
BTEA participants who have to repeat a year of their course will continue to be paid the allowance for the repeat year. This is provided that the BTEA participant is registered and attending as a FULL-TIME student for the repeat year. Repeat students who register as external students, exam only students or part-time students for their repeat year are not eligible for the allowance. A person will only be allowed to repeat one academic year of their current course of study on the basis of exam failure and/or exceptional circumstances,evidence of such to be provided. eg due to illness, pregnancy, force majeure reasons.
1.14.8 Drop out of course
A BTEA participant who fails to complete, or drops out of a course will not be permitted on to the scheme to pursue a different course unless the Department is satisfied that certain circumstances pertain. The condition may be waived where there are mitigating circumstances, for which evidence must be provided, that would make it unreasonable to expect a person to have continued the course. Recovery of amounts paid may be considered.
1.14.9 Relaxation of the first year of an approved course of study:
The condition that applicants must be commencing the first year of an approved full-time course to access the BTEA has being relaxed from 19 July 2010, subject to fulfilling the other scheme conditions, to allow access after the first year of a course to:
- Applicants who have been granted an exemption by the college/course provider based on a previous course or on life experience.
- Applicants who had completed the earlier year(s) of the course on a part-time basis.
- Applicants who are permitted by the college/course provider to proceed to the second or subsequent year of a course after having previously dropped out or deferred a year.
From 4 July 2013, former One Family Parent customers affected by age related change to OFP in full-time education who did not opt for BTEA at the start of the course may be admitted to BTEA ‘mid course’ where OFP is being withdrawn due to the age of the youngest child. The customer cannot be in receipt of both BTEA and a Student Maintenance grant. RSU circulars 47/13 and 61/13 details the position.
It is not considered that existing graduates should have an entitlement to BTEA to pursue a course at a similar qualification level.
A person who wishes to pursue a second level (SLO) or Third level (TLO) course of study or Postgraduate (limited) and wishes to apply for BTEA it is necessary to be:
- A specific age.
- In receipt of a qualifying social welfare payment for a specified period of time.
- The course must be a recognised full-time day course of study and attended on a full-time basis
- Studying at a recognised college leading to a recognised qualification
(for BTEA purposes).
- Must be commencing the first year of a course of study (with exceptions- See 1.14.9) .
- Progressing in the level of education held by the client with reference to the National framework of qualifications.(see 1.10)
1.15 BTEA Disqualifications
- Entitlement to Back to Education Allowance is terminated when the person ceases to pursue an approved course of study.
- Persons in receipt of Back to Education Allowance are not eligible to participate in a Community Employment Scheme, Social Economy Programme, Tus, Rural Social Scheme, any other FÁS/Fáilte Ireland training programme, WPP, National Internship Programme or Part-time Job Incentive Scheme .
- Persons in receipt of Back to Education Allowance are not eligible for Family Income Supplement (FIS).
Persons pursuing Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) recognised, or other second level courses of study at Roslyn Park College, National Learning Network or any other FÁS Funded Training Institute are not eligible to participate in the Back to Education Allowance Scheme. BTEA (SLO/TLO) will not be approved in respect of a person who holds a qualification equivalent or higher than the qualification for which the BTEA application has been received.
1.16 Rates of Payment
BTEA is a separate, stand alone scheme. Since January 1st 2013, the practice of uprating all those on means tested payments including OFP and Disability Allowance up to the maximum personal rate has been discontinued for new entrants. BTEA applicants approved prior to 1st January 2013, receive a weekly personal rate equivalent to the maximum standard personal rate of the relevant Social Welfare payment that actually qualified them for participation in the BTEA scheme. For all new BTEA cases coming from Jobseekers Allowance and Disability Allowance, where a spouse has earnings, the rate payable will be personal rate of JA/DA plus Qualified Adult rate determined by reference to JB tapered QA rules. If there is a change in means circumstances other than part-time work undertaken by the BTEA recipient during the academic year, then a revised decision may be applied.
1.16.1 New entrants to BTEA aged over 25 years old
The practice of uprating over 25 year olds to the maximum weekly payment for all new entrants including OFP and DA has been discontinued for 1 January 2013 due to measures introduced in Budget 2013. New entrants who enter BTEA on the maximum personal rate of their qualifying social welfare payment are not affected by this measure and will continue to receive their maximum payment, while entitlement continues to exist. New entrants who enter BTEA on a reduced personal rate of their qualifying social welfare payment due to means will continue to receive their payment, while entitlement continues to exist. This entitlement is based on a means test carried out by the Department and is the rate deemed appropriate to an individual based on their unique circumstances.
1.16.2 New entrants to BTEA aged under 25 years old
The practice of uprating under 25 year olds on jobseekers allowance age related payments to the maximum personal payment rate for new entrants has also been discontinued from 1 January 2013 due to measures introduced in Budget 2013. New entrants to BTEA who were previously on age reduced payments of €100 per week for 18-21 year olds and €144 for 22-24 year olds will have their payments uprated to €160 per week. This represents a €60 per week increase for 18-21 year olds and a €16 per week increase for 22-24 year olds. Only in cases where means exist will the weekly rate fall below €160 and means will now be assessed against the new maximum rate of €160 ensuring even those with means will receive an incentive for participating in education and training. If there is a change in means circumstances, other thant part-time work undertaken by the BTEA recipient during the academic year, then a revised decision may be applied.
The Budget 2013 changes outlined in Para 1.16.1 and Para 1.16.2 above apply to new entrants only from 1 January 2013. Participants already engaged in and progressing in BTEA are not affected by these changes.A 'Saver' clause operates to prevent a participant being made worse off by virtue of this arrangement.
BTEA participants may engage in part-time employment at no cost without affecting their rate of payment but only after commencing BTEA, provided the work does not interfere with college attendance. However, any change in the financial circumstances of the spouse/partner will effect increases for qualified adult/child dependent allowance.
Where a spouse has earnings the rate payable will be determined by reference to JB tapered IQA rules. Limitation (max rate pay) pertains to new BTEA cases as currently applies when dealing with JB/JA/Preta/Farm Assist.
From 1 January 2013, where a person on a graduated rate of jobseekers’ benefit based on earnings bands applies for BTEA, the rate of BTEA is equal to their JB rate. However, the person may opt for a JA rate. If the JB rate changes on the commencement of a new governing contribution year, then the BTEA rate may be amended.
For new BTEA entrants where a person has been signing casually immediately prior to the commencement of a course , the rate of BTEA should be calculated by averaging SW payment from the last eight weeks payment. If there is a change in means circumstances, other than part-time work undertaken by the BTEA participant, during the academic year, then a revised decision may be applied.
However, additional income will affect entitlement to Rent/Mortgage Supplement. Clients should be directed to the HSE for clarification of this issue. Any fuel allowance payments to the household may also be affected by an increase in means.
Please note that if you cease your course of education and re-apply for any social welfare payment, you must fulfill the qualifying conditions for that scheme. These include disclosure of all earnings and other income where required.
1.17 Cost of Education Allowance
The €300 cost of education allowance is abolished for new and existing BTEA participants from January 1st, 2013.
1.18 Extra Benefits
Participants may continue to receive any secondary benefits to which they would otherwise have an entitlement (provisions are governed by primary legislation). These may include:
- Fuel Allowance
- Rent Allowance/Mortgage Interest Supplement under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance scheme.
1.19 Assessment for Rent/Mortgage Supplement
Any increase in income or earnings from part-time employment, will affect entitlement to a Rent/Mortgage Supplement. Also, all educational grants received are assessed for Rent Allowance and Mortgage Interest Supplement purposes. Clients should be directed to the HSE for clarification of this issue.
1.20 Back to Education Allowance and Maintenance Grants
Since September 2010, all new applicants who are in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance for all schemes, and the VTOS allowances for those pursuing PLC courses, are no longer eligible for student support maintenance grants. The cost of the student services charge and any fees payable to colleges will continue to be met, for eligible students, by the Exchequer on their behalf.
2. Claims, Documentation and Decision Procedures
Responsibility for securing a place on a course rests with the applicant. The Department of Social Protection does not provide assistance in this regard.
Once a person has been accepted on a course s/he must notify the Department by completing the application form ( BTE 1). Application form ( BTE1) is readily available from various outlets ( see Appendix 1)
2.2 Timing of Application
Applications for BTEA must be made prior to commencement of an approved course of study. A person may submit an application for consideration within 30days of the commencement date of the course; provided it is accompanied with evidence that reasonable grounds exist for doing so. In exceptional circumstances, applications may be considered after 30 days of the commencement date of the course, for example if a person did not submit a claim due to illness or other force majeure circumstances and the necessary evidence accompanies the application. The Officer awarding a late application should document the reason for the late award if a BTEA application is received after the commencement of the course.
Applicants are responsible for the production of the information required. This includes written confirmation from the relevant institute of education that the applicant has registered as a full-time day student. Payment will not issue until approved applicants provide written confirmation from the school/college.
Failure to supply relevant documentation will result in the application being disallowed.
Participants may be requested to furnish confirmation of on-going course attendance. Failure to supply this information within the period specified may result in a suspension of payment and assessment of an overpayment.
Participants are required to notify the Department of cessation of participation on a course or any change in circumstances.
Decisions on BTEA (SLO & TLO) applications are made by Officials of the Department in the relevant Social Welfare Office. On receipt of a completed application form ( BTE 1), the application is examined to ensure that all scheme eligibility criteria are satisfied.
- Decisions on applications for persons in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance, Jobseekers Benefit, Farm Assist or One Parent Family Payment (paid by your local Social Welfare Office)are made by the relevant Social Welfare Local Office
- Decisions on applications for persons in receipt of One-Parent Family Payment (paid from Social Welfare Services Sligo), Deserted Wife's Allowance, Deserted Wife's Benefit, Widow's/Widower's Non-Contributory Pension, Widow's/Widower's Contributory Pension, Prisoners Wife's Allowance and Blind Pension are made by the relevant section at the Social Welfare Services Office, College Road, Sligo.
- Decisions on applications for persons in receipt of one of Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, Incapacity Supplement and Carer's Allowance are made by the relevant section at the Social Welfare Services Office, Government Buildings, Ballinalee Road, Longford. Decisions on applications made by persons in receipt of Illness Benefit are made by Employment Support Services, Back to Education Schemes, Shannon Lodge, Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim.
If the conditions of entitlement are satisfied, formal provisional approval is issued to the applicant. The applicant is advised that written confirmation from school/College stating that they are registered as a full-time day student must be supplied before payment of BTEA commences (for second level courses, written confirmation must be obtained from school/College Principal. For third level course, written confirmation from the Registrars, Student Records or Admissions Office of the College). Letter should include details of the course of study as outlined in their application and the start and finishing date of the course in the current academic year.
On receipt of same the relevant Social Welfare Office makes the necessary payment arrangements.
If the conditions of entitlement are not satisfied, notification is issued to the claimant, stating the specific grounds for refusal. The claimant is advised of his/her right to have the decision reviewed. A request for review should be received within 21 days.
All relevant details of BTEA applications MUST be entered on the TLA application which is available on OFFICE (See seperate Training Manual for this application).
3. Procedures Following Award
Back to Education Allowance is paid on a weekly basis. Participants are requested to supply details of their bank account and payment of the allowance may be made by Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT). Other methods of payment may include Electronic Information Transfer (EIT) or postdraft (PDT).
Note: In some instances Back to Education allowance is paid one week in arrears.
3.2 Reviews and appeal of decision
The Back to Education Allowance is a non-statutory scheme and, as such, decisions cannot be appealed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. . A person who is not satisfied with a decision may request (in writing) a review by an officer of the relevant Social Welfare Local Office or Section, enclosing any new evidence in support of the review. A reviewing officer should ensure the original decision and any new evidence supplied is reviewed taking the BTEA guidelines into consideration in their entirety. Decisions post review should be communicated clearly to the client outlining in detail why the claim has been awarded/refused and noting that all new evidence has been taken into consideration in coming to a final decision.
3.3 Duration of Payment
Normally, the back to education allowance is payable for the duration of the academic year only. The allowance is NOT payable for the summer period between academic years to BTEA participants who were in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance or Jobseekers Benefit prior to participation in the scheme.
Persons who were in receipt of One-Parent Family Payment, Deserted Wife's Allowance, Deserted Wife's Benefit, Widow's/Widower's Non-Contributory Pension, Widow's/Widower's Contributory Pension, Prisoner's Wife's Allowance, Disability Allowance, Blind Pension, Invalidity Pension, Incapacity Supplement, Carer's Allowance or Illness Benefit prior to participation in the scheme are not affected by this condition and retain payment during the summer period provided they are returning and progressing to the next year of their course of study. In the case of participants who qualified from an OFP claim received after 27th April 2011, there is provision for continued payment of BTEA and IQC for people until completion of the course of study if the youngest child reaches an age threshold for withdrawal of IQC payment.
Where BTEA participants (Second or Third Level Option) are unable to find employment during the summer period, subject to satisfying the usual qualifying conditions, they may be entitled to claim an unemployment payment (JA/JB).
In circumstances where BTEA participants have to, as an integral or compulsory part of their course of study, undertake a period of work placement/experience or a thesis, the allowance will continue in payment for this period. The participant must supply written evidence from the Registrars’ Office/Admissions Office or Student Records Office of the school/college/institution confirming this and the start and completion date. Work placement outside of Ireland should not be considered where there is the option to undertake the work placement in Ireland. Work placement after the completion of a FIT course is not covered.
SWLO's will contact, in March/April of each year, BTEA participants who were previously in receipt of an unemployment payment to determine their intentions for the new academic year. Participants will also be requested to supply the date of last attendance for the current academic year. Payment of the allowance will continue to this date.
Failure to notify the Department of intentions in respect of the forthcoming academic year will result in the immediate suspension of the Back to Education Allowance.
BTEA participants who are progressing to the next year of their course or who are progressing from second level to third level approved undergraduate qualifications or from undergraduate qualification to BTEA eligible postgraduate courses will have their BTEA reinstated from the commencement of the new academic year irrespective of whether they were in receipt of an unemployment payment for the summer period. All participants must supply written confirmation from school/college/institute that they have registered as a full-time day student for the new academic year. Participants are also required to notify the Department of cessation of participation on a course.
Claims are maintained on an on-going basis in the relevant Social Welfare Local Office, the relevant section in the Social Welfare Services Office, College Road Sligo, the relevant section in the Social Welfare Services Office, Government Buildings, Ballinalee Road, Longford and Employment Support Services, Back to Education Schemes, Shannon Lodge, Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim, in respect of persons previously in receipt of Illness Benefit.
3.5 Lost Payments
If a postdraft/cheque payment is not received by the participant, a replacement may be issued. See document on "Payments" in these Guidelines, in respect of the action to be taken when a postdraft/cheque is reported as uncashed, lost or stolen, or a book of payable orders is reported as lost or stolen.
4. CONTROL AND CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCES
A number of control actions are initiated before a BTEA claim can be awarded and put in to payment;
- confirmation from school/College stating that the person is registered as a full-time day student (for second level courses, written confirmation must be obtained from school/College Principal. For third level course, written confirmation from the Registrars, Student Records or Admissions Office of the College)
- details of the course of study as outlined in their application
- the start and finishing date of the course in the current academic year.
Payment of the Back to Education Allowance will not issue until this information is supplied and delays could result in loss of payment. Copy letters from the school/College are not acceptable.
Once awarded, participants in BTEA are required to notify the Department immediately if they are not continuing participation on their chosen course or any change in circumstances which may affect entitlement to BTEA.
Participation in the Back to Education Allowance may be periodically reviewed, to confirm that the conditions of entitlement continue to be satisfied. Local social welfare offices are also encouraged to engage in annual control exercises on BTEA which investigate if participants continue to attend their chosen full time courses of study on a full time basis and continue to satisfy the conditions of the scheme.
As outlined in circulars 82/08, 107/09, 65/10 and 67/13 it is good practice to request BTEA customers to supply written evidence of ongoing full-time attendance at school/College. Results from these control exercises should be forwarded to the BTEA central policy section where they can be critically examined and inform future policy on BTEA.
Similarly, where control exercises on BTEA are initiated and carried out in social welfare regions throughout the country, results should be forwarded by the Regional Manager to the BTEA central policy section for examination.
A review may also be initiated on receipt of notification of any change in circumstances which may affect entitlement or the appropriate rate of payment. Where a person has received BTEA payments from the Department of Social Protection, which he or she was not entitled to receive, the person shall be liable to repay on demand a sum not exceeding the amount of the money received. Reference should be made to the Departmental guidelines on the recovery of debt.
Resumption Notices are issued in March/April to ascertain when courses are finishing and participants' intentions for the coming academic year e.g. course completed or customer going on to the next year of course or progressing to an approved course. Based on the response, a decision is made either to terminate the BTEA at the end of the current academic year or to continue payment in the following academic year.
If a customer does not respond to the resumption notice within a reasonable length of time, payment of BTEA is suspended. Details provided by client on their BTE1 application should correspond with details now supplied. If it transpires that details are different/contradictory to the facts already established a review should take place.
In addition, as part of wider Departmental control procedures a student data match takes place annually. The Department requests and receives data in relation to all students on an annual basis. When the Department receives this data, the student details are matched against the social welfare databases. Cases identified where a student is in full-time education and are in receipt of a jobseekers payment (excluding Back to Education) are referred to the Special Investigation Unit for investigation. Where there are irregularities, claims are terminated and overpayments raised which the Department actively pursues. Fraudulent cases are considered for prosecution .
Information Leaflet ( SW70) and application form ( BTE1) are available from:
- Nationwide network of Social Welfare Local Offices,
- Employment Support Services, Back to Education Schemes Section, Shannon Lodge, Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim.
- Social Welfare Services Office, College Road, Sligo,
- Social Welfare Services Office, Government Buildings, Ballinalee Road, Longford,
- Information Service, Social Welfare Services Office, College Road, Sligo.
Completed application form (BTE1) should be returned to:
- Persons in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance, Jobseekers Benefit, Farm Assist or One Parent Family Payment (ISTS cases) must return the completed application form (BTE1) to the relevant Social Welfare Local Office.
- Persons in receipt of a One-Parent Family Payment, Deserted Wife's Allowance, Deserted Wife's Benefit, Widow's/Widower's Non-Contributory Pension, Widow's/Widower's Contributory Pension, Prisoners Wife's Allowance or Blind Pension must return the completed application form ( BTE1) to the Social Welfare Services Office, College Road, Sligo.
- Persons in receipt of Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, Incapacity Supplement or Carer's Allowance must return the completed application form ( BTE1) to Social Welfare Services Office, Government Buildings, Ballinalee Road, Longford.
- Persons in receipt of Illness Benefit must return the completed application form ( BTE1) to Employment Support Services, Back to Education Schemes, Shannon Lodge, Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim.
Details of Relevant changes to Third Level Allowance/Second Level Allowance & Back to Education Allowance since 1990
1990 Third Level Allowance (TLA) first introduced. Applied to Jobseekers Allowance and Jobseekers Benefit only. Age criteria was 23 and qualifying period was 15 months
1993: Extended to recipients of One Parent Family Payments
Qualifying period reduced to 12 months
1995: Age criteria reduced to 21 years of age
Qualifying period reduced to 6 months
TLA extended to Postgraduate qualifications (age criteria 24) provided applicant was on LR for at least 6 months after completing primary degree
1996: TLA established as a separate stand-alone scheme
TLA payable at maximum personal rate
Book Allowance (E127.00) introduced
Payment of TLA during Summer vacation period
Requirement to be, for Postgraduate Option, on LR for 6 months after completing primary degree abolished
1997: Second Level Allowance (SLA) established as a stand-alone scheme
1998: Both the Second Level Allowance (SLA) and the Third Level Allowance (TLA) were merged into a unified Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) Scheme.
Disability Allowance and Blind Pension became relevant payments for BTEA purposes.
Annual Book Allowance was re-titled Cost of Education Allowance and increased to E190.00
1999: Annual Cost of Education Allowance increased to E254.00
2000: Invalidity Pension, Incapacity Supplement and Carer's Allowance became relevant payments for BTEA purposes
The Qualified Adult of a BTEA eligible person could "take over" the relevant Social Welfare payment in order to access the BTEA scheme. This arrangement is known as "Spousal Swap"
Periods spent on Back to Work Allowance, FAS Job Initiative and Job Start could count towards qualifying period for BTEA
2001: Early School Leavers (18-20 year olds) qualified for BTEA provided out of formal education for at least 2 years
People with disabilities who accessed Community Employment Schemes through the National Disability Authority (NDA) became eligible for BTEA without having to establish a Social Welfare entitlement
2002: Persons in receipt of Deserted Wife's Allowance/Benefit Widows Contributory/Non Contributory Pension and Prisoners Wife's Allowance without dependent children became eligible for BTEA
BTEA was extended to persons in receipt of Illness Benefit for 3 years or more
Qualified Adult of BTEA eligible persons became eligible to access scheme in their own right (replaced "Spousal Swap")
2003: Summer payment to BTEA participants previously on Jobseekers Allowance and Jobseekers Benefit discontinued
Postgraduate option of BTEA scheme restricted to Higher Diplomas (H.Dip.) or Postgraduate Diplomas in Education (Primary School Teaching)
2004: Qualifying period for TLO increased from 6 to 15 months
2005: Qualifying period for TLO reduced from 15 to 12 months
JA and JB recipients qualify for TLO at 9 months if participating in NEAP process
Annual Cost of Education Allowance increased to E400.00
2006: Periods spent on SWA or Direct Provision from HSE to count towards qualifying period provided entitlement to relevant Social Welfare payment is established prior to commencing an approved course of study
2007: Qualifying period for Illness Benefit reduced to 2 years
Persons awarded Statutory Redundancy may access scheme provided entitlement to a relevant Social Welfare payment is established prior to commencing an approved course of study. 1/9/2007
2008: Annual Cost of Education Allowance increases to EUR500.00.
Cost of Education Allowance extended to "credit only" cases
2009 Reduction of the qualifying period for Second level courses from 6 months (156 days) to 3 Months( 78 days ) for all qualifying payments. (1/5/2009)
Earlier access to Third level Option of the BTEA on the recommendation of the Job Facilitator. (Jobseekers claims only). (1/5/2009)
2010 Qualifying period for receipt of TLO courses reduced to 9 months( 234 days ) for all payments (July 2010) except Illness Benefit. (2 year qualifying period for Illness Benefit cases).
Relaxation of the condition of first year of course of study. (July 2010)
BTEA recipients no longer eligible for Student Support Maintenance Grants (maintenance element only) September 2010
2012 Annual Cost of Education reduced from €500 to €300.
2013 The €300 Cost of Education Allowance was abolished for new and existing BTEA participants from January 1st 2013. This applies to all courses commencing after this date.
The practice of uprating over 25 year olds on all DSP payments to the maximum weekly rate is discontinued for new entrants only from 1 January 2013 and the uprating of under 25s on age related Jobseeker payments to a new reduced maximum rate of €160 applies to new entrants only from 1st Jan 2013. Under 25 year olds with means will have their means applied to the new €160 rate.
Those currently engaged with BTEA and who are progressing, or who are mid-course (for example will finish year one in May 2013 and resume their studies in September 2013), will not be affected by the budget 2013 changes relating to ‘uprating’. This includes people progressing from SLO to TLO.
Qualified Adults are no longer entitled to the full personal rate of the qualifying DSP payment.
A person participating on DSP Work programmes ( CE, Tus, RSS etc) , Work Placement programmes (JobBridge etc), Back to Work schemes , VTOS or FAS schemes must establish an entitlement to a qualifying DSP payment in order to qualify for BTEA at the applicable rate.
From 4 July 2013, former One Family Parent customers affected by age related changes to OFP in full-time education who did not opt for BTEA at the start of the course may be admitted to BTEA ‘mid course’ where OFP is being withdrawn due to the age of the youngest child.
National Framework of Qualifications
The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) has been in place since 2003. The NFQ is designed for the development, recognition and award of qualifications based on standards of knowledge, skill and competence acquired by learners. The Framework consists of 10 levels, from basic learning to Doctoral awards. Thus, it is designed to accommodate all types of education and training, wherever it takes place.
The NFQ is underpinned by legislation. This legislation established three new bodies. The National Qualifications Authority of Ireland has responsibility for leading the development and implementation of the NFQ.
FETAC (The Further Education and Training Awards Council) makes awards at NFQ Levels 1 to 6.
HETAC (The Higher Education and Training Awards Council) makes awards at NFQ Levels 6 to 10. Awards (qualifications) made within schools, universities and Dublin Institute of Technology are also included in the NFQ.
If a question arises from an individual who obtained their qualifications in another country and are now questioning their entitlement to BTEA. To get the Irish equivalent of their qualification under the National Framework of Qualifications, they should contact the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) formerly known as National Qualifications Authority of Ireland. This is the Irish centre for the recognition of international qualifications, known at Qualifications Recognition - Ireland. The Authority represents Ireland in a European Network of centres. The aim of this website is to provide information regarding the services provided by Qualifications Recognition Ireland. The website is www.qualrec.ie . The person should be directed to Qualifications Recognition, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) , 26-27 Denzille Lane, Dublin 2 Tel 01 9058100. The website is www.qualrec.ie . Specific queries can be submitted online to www.qqi.ie
Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC):
In whereas FETAC awards are generally second level, BTEC awards can be either second or third level. BTEC is a British educational awards body and, at present, there is no definite alignment between BTEC awards and Rep. of Ireland awarding bodies. Following consultation with the National Qualifications Authorities of Ireland (NQAI) at present, the following criteria regarding BTEC awards applies:
- BTEC National Diploma is considered second level
- BTEC Higher National Diploma (HND) is considered third level