VTOS - Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme


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Table of Contents

PART 1: ENTITLEMENT
Description of Scheme
- VTOS Courses
Information Leaflet
Legislation
Administration
- Qualifying Conditions
Disqualifications
- Rates of Payment
Half Rate JB and VTOS
Full Rate JB for Blind Pensioners on VTOS
VTOS for more than two years
Books
Extra Benefits

PART 2: CLAIMS, INVESTIGATION AND DECISION PROCEDURES:
Claims
Documentation
- Decisions
Appeals

PART 3 : PROCEDURES FOLLOWING AWARD
Payment
Duration of payment
- Maintenance
Review
Credits
VTOS "TASTER" COURSES


PART 1: ENTITLEMENT

Description of Scheme

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme is an educational opportunities scheme for unemployed persons which is funded by the Department of Education and Science with assistance from the European Social Fund. The Scheme is operated through the Vocational Education Committees and provides a special range of courses designed to meet the education and training needs of unemployed people.

The aims of the scheme are :

  • to give unemployed people education and training opportunities which will develop their employability
  • to prepare people to go into paid employment or on to further opportunities leading to paid employment
VTOS Courses

The Vocational Education Committees operate special VTOS courses which are particularly suitable for persons who have been out of school for some time. The courses are full-time, approximately 30 hours per week (e.g. 6 hours a day for 5 days) and last for up to 2 years.

Certification is available at a range of levels, including Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate, and the Foundation, Level 1 and Level 2 certificates of the National Council for Vocational Awards (NCVA).

There are no course fees.

Information Leaflet

"Back to Education Programmes" SW 70

Legislation

The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme is an administrative scheme and is not covered by legislation. It was set up by Government decision in 1989.

Administration

Since January 1990, the administration of VTOS has been the responsibility of the Department of Education and Science. It is operated via the Vocational Education Committees.

The role of the Department of Social Protection is limited to

  • confirming an applicant's duration of receipt of the relevant social welfare payment(s), rate of payment and underlying entitlement to receipt of a social welfare payment (to enable the VECs to ensure compliance with Scheme eligibility criteria), and
  • arranging for continued payment of One Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, Illness Benefit, Blind Pension, Invalidity Pension, Deserted Wife's Benefit/Allowance, Widow's/Widower's Contributory/Non Contributory Pension and Prisoner's Wife's Allowance to relevant participants.
Qualifying Conditions

Eligibility criteria are determined by the Department of Education and Science.

To qualify for VTOS a person must:

  • be at least 21 years of age at the commencement of the course,
  • be in receipt of an unemployment payment or signing for credits for at least 6 months*.

Also, the course must be provided or approved by the local VEC for the purposes of the VTOS scheme.

A limited number of places are available to persons in receipt of One Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, Illness Benefit, Blind Pension, Invalidity Pension, Deserted Wife's Benefit/Allowance, Widow's/Widower's Contributory/Non Contributory Pension and Prisoner's Wife's Allowance and to qualified spouses/partners of persons eligible to participate in VTOS.

Periods spent on VTOS, FS training schemes, Community Employment, Job Initiative, Youthreach or time in prison can count towards the 6 month qualifying period.

Disqualifications

Entitlement to a VTOS training allowance is terminated if the participant ceases to pursue the course. Issues relating to disqualification are a matter for the Department of Education and Science or the relevant VEC.

Rates of Payment

Persons in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance or Jobseeker's Benefit receive a weekly training allowance equivalent to the maximum personal rate of Jobseeker's Benefit. Any means which have been assessed are disregarded. Also, increases in respect of qualified adult and child dependents continue to be paid while there is an underlying entitlement to such increases on Jobseeker's Allowance or Jobseeker's Benefit.

Persons in receipt of One Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, Illness Benefit, Blind Pension, Invalidity Pension, Deserted Wife's Benefit/Allowance, Widow's/Widower's Contributory/Non Contributory Pension and Prisoner's Wife's Allowance continue to draw their payments in the normal way from the Department of Social Protection. However, any means which have been assessed are disregarded.

VTOS is not means tested. Therefore the rate of payment is not affected by any earnings/income received by the VTOS participant.

Persons signing for credits only may qualify to participate on a VTOS course. These participants do not receive a training allowance but may receive travel and lunch allowances from the VEC.

The spouse/partner of a person in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance or Jobseeker's Benefit which includes an increase for the spouse/partner may also qualify to join a VTOS course. However the spouse/partner will not qualify for payment in his/her own right while on VTOS, but he/she may get a lunch and travel allowance paid by the VEC where appropriate.

Half Rate JB and VTOS

A VTOS participant who is in receipt of One Parent Family Payment, Deserted Wife's Allowance/Benefit, Widow's/Widower's Contributory Allowance or Prisoner's Wife's Allowance are paid at the maximum rate for the duration of the course. These payments are considered to be the primary Social Welfare payment and VTOS is awarded on the basis of these payments. In certain circumstances the claimant may also be in receipt of half rate Jobseeker's Benefit. The half rate JB may be continued to be paid in respect of days of unemployment only (for casual/part time customers), until entitlement to the JB exhausts in the normal way. The claimant may subsequently re qualify for JB provided all conditions are satisfied. In this respect the claimant is deemed to be available for employment for the duration of the VTOS claim.

Full rate JB for Blind Pensioners on VTOS

Where a Blind pensioner has an entitlement to full rate JB in addition to VTOS, JB may continue to be paid for days of unemployment only until the entitlement to JB exhausts in the normal way.

VTOS more than two years

VTOS is payable for a maximum of 2 years only. In circumstances where a person has undertaken a course that is in excess of 2 years while on VTOS, the Back to Education Second Level Option is payable for the remainder of the course. The Social Welfare Local Office should ensure that the claimant is resuming the next year of the same course in the following academic year and that no qualification was awarded on the cessation of VTOS. Once this has been established, the Second Level Option may be approved from the beginning of the new academic year.

Books

Persons receive free books and materials at the commencement of the VTOS course.

Extra Benefits

VTOS participants retain entitlement to their Social Welfare secondary benefits.

There are a range of secondary benefits which are not administered by the Department of Social Protection :

  • medical cards - administered by the Department of Health
  • differential rents - administered by the Local Authorities
  • travel (for distances over 3 miles) and meal allowances - administered by the Department of Education and Science.

PART 2: CLAIMS, INVESTIGATION AND DECISION PROCEDURES

Claims

Any person who wishes to pursue Vocational Training should contact his/her local VEC. The Department of Social Protection cannot assist in this regard.

When a place has been secured the applicant must complete an application form (VTOS 1) and return it

  • to the appropriate Social Welfare Local Office, if s/he is unemployed, or
  • to One Parent Family Payments Section, Social Welfare Services Office, College Road, Sligo, (if not appropriate to a Local Office) or
  • to Widow's Contributory/Non Contributory Pensions, Deserted Wife's Benefit/Allowance, Prisoner's Wife's Allowance or Blind Pensions Section, Social Welfare Services Office, College Road, Sligo, or
  • to Illness Benefit Section, Aras Mhic Dhiarmada, Store St, Dublin 1, or
  • to Disability Allowance Section, Ballinalee Road, Longford.

The application form must contain full the details of the course.

Documentation

To determine the amount of VTOS training allowance payable, the VEC require full details of the relevant social welfare entitlement in respect of each participant. For this purpose, a form VTOS1 REV is completed by the Social Welfare Local Office or relevant Social Welfare Head Office and returned to the VEC.

Participants are required to notify the relevant social welfare payments section if they cease to attend college.

Decisions

Decisions on entitlement to participate in the Scheme are made by the relevant VEC, based on written confirmation (VTOS1-REV) from the appropriate Department of Social Protection office that the applicant satisfies the condition of being in receipt of the relevant social welfare payment for at least 6 months prior to commencement of the course.

The Social Welfare Local Office confirms the applicant's duration of registered unemployment and the rate of underlying entitlement to a jobseeker's payment.

Payment of One Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, Illness Benefit, Blind Pension, Invalidity Pension, Deserted Wife's Benefit/Allowance, Widow's/Widower's Contributory/Non Contributory Pension and Prisoner's Wife's Allowance are continued for the duration of participation in the VTOS course upon confirmation from the VEC that the person has been accepted on a course.

Appeals

VTOS is administered by the Department of Education and Science via the Vocational Education Committees and, as a result, there is no right of appeal in relation to decisions on participation in the Scheme to the Department of Social Protection or the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

Any person who is dissatisfied with a decision on underlying entitlement to a social welfare payment may appeal such decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.

PART 3 : PROCEDURES FOLLOWING AWARD

Payment

Payment on VTOS is subject to continued participation on the course. Participants who were in receipt of a jobseeker's payment from the Department of Social Protection are paid a rate equivalent to the maximum personal weekly rate of Jobseeker's Benefit plus the relevant increase in respect of adult and/or child dependents, where applicable. This payment is made by the VEC.

Participants in receipt of One Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, Illness Benefit, Blind Pension, Invalidity Pension, Deserted Wife's Benefit/Allowance, Widow's/Widower's Contributory/Non Contributory Pension and Prisoner's Wife's Allowance continue to receive their social welfare payment in the normal way. In the case of means tested payments, where the full rate was not in payment due to means, they receive the full rate. A participant must continue to satisfy the conditions relevant to his/her scheme, i.e. not cohabit in the case of lone parents.

As previously unemployed participants are no longer in receipt of a social welfare payment, they are not required to sign-on at a Local Social Welfare Office while participating in the Scheme.

Duration of payment

The VTOS training allowance is payable for the duration of participation on a course.

Participants receive One Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, Illness Benefit, Blind Pension, Invalidity Pension, Deserted Wife's Benefit/Allowance, Widow's/Widower's Contributory/Non Contributory Pension and Prisoner's Wife's Allowance from the Department of Social Protection for so long as the conditions for receipt of the relevant payment continue to be satisfied, e.g. a single person in receipt of One Parent Family Payment may be entitled to continue to claim such payment for so long as s/he remains unmarried, or does not cohabit with another as man and wife.

In some VEC areas, the VTOS training allowance is payable during the summer months if the participant intends resuming the course the following autumn. VTOS is also paid to all participants during the Christmas and Easter holiday periods.

Maintenance

The rate of payment is affected by budgetary changes and changes in qualified adult or child dependency status.

Review

A review is initiated when the Department is notified of any change in circumstances that may affect entitlement, i.e. a change in the status of an adult or child dependent.

Credits

Where a person has established an entitlement to the award of credited contributions, credits may be awarded for the duration of the participation on VTOS. Issue VTOS 2 to Central Records when claimant commences on VTOS and when claimant ceases on the VTOS course issue VTOS 3.

VTOS "TASTER " Courses

"Taster" courses are designed to teach studies, skills and personal development to persons who are considering a return to full-time education. Participation on the course consists of a few hours per day for a maximum duration of 12 weeks. Persons do not receive a VTOS personal allowance, although they may receive an allowance to cover travel and lunch expenses.

Participants on "taster" courses retain eligibility for Jobseeker's Allowance/Benefit, One-Parent Family Payment or Disability Allowance, as appropriate. Participants are deemed to be available for work and the travel and lunch allowance is not assessable for Jobseeker's Allowance purposes.


Last modified:08/07/2010
 

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