1. What is the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme?
The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme, which is run by the Department of Education and Skills, is operated through the VECs. Sometimes courses can take as long as two years. They can lead to qualifications such as Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate and Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC) certificates. The main objectives of the scheme are:
- to give unemployed people education and training opportunities that will help them find a job, and
- to prepare people to go to paid employment or to further educational opportunities leading to paid employment.
VTOS courses are free; books and materials may be provided free of charge.
Some VECs run sample courses to help you decide on the most appropriate VTOS course to meet your needs. Contact your local VEC for more information.
2. How do I qualify?
You can qualify for VTOS if you are:
- aged at least 21
- getting Jobseeker's Allowance or Benefit or signing for credits for at least six months
You can also qualify if you are getting, for at least six months:
- One-Parent Family Payment,
- Disability Allowance,
- Illness Benefit,
- Invalidity Pension,
- Blind Pension,
- Deserted Wife's Allowance,
- Deserted Wife's Benefit,
- Widow's or Widowers Non-Contributory Pension,
- Widow's or Widowers Contributory Pension, or
- Prisoners Wife's Allowance.
If you are getting Illness Benefit you must get permission from the Department before you start a VTOS course.
If you are getting one of these payments you must be able to show that you have not been engaged in paid employment for at least 6 months before you start the course.
Time spent on FÁS training courses, Community Employment, Job Initiative or time in prison or Youthreach may count towards the six month qualifying period.
If you qualify for 'credited contributions', they will continue to be awarded while you are on the course. If you are signing for unemployment credits only, you may qualify to take part in the scheme but you will not get an allowance.
You must be getting one of the relevant Social Welfare payments immediately before you start the course.
If you are getting an unemployment payment and you are getting an increase for your spouse or partner, they may also participate in VTOS. However, your spouse or partner will not qualify for a payment in their own right while on VTOS but they may get a small lunch and travel allowance (paid by the VEC), where appropriate.
3. How do I apply?
Apply to your local VEC for a place on VTOS.
As there may be some changes to the conditions for getting VTOS or the type of VTOS courses on offer, please contact your local VEC for the most up-todate information.
4. How is VTOS paid?
VTOS is paid at a standard weekly rate. So, if you are currently getting a reduced rate of payment (because you have means assessed against you), you may qualify for a higher rate on VTOS.
If you are transferring from an unemployment payment to VTOS, you will be paid a training allowance similar to the highest rate of Jobseeker's Benefit, including any appropriate increases due for a qualified adult and qualified children. You will normally be paid by cheque or Paypath by the VEC each week.
If you are getting a qualifying payment other than Jobseeker's Allowance or Benefit, you will continue to get the highest rate of your current social welfare payment.
If you were getting one of the payments (or a combination of the payments) for 12 months or more immediately before you started the VTOS course, you can get an extra weekly training bonus of €31.80.
You cannot count time spent on a Youthreach or Senior Traveller Training Programme towards getting this training bonus. However, you can get this bonus if you are moving straight from a Youthreach or Senior Traveller Training Programme to VTOS and you have been getting one of the payments for 12 months immediately before starting VTOS.
The VTOS allowance is not means-tested, so you may work without it affecting your payment. You can get the allowance over the summer if you intend going back to the course in the autumn. You can also get the allowance during Christmas and Easter holidays.
You may still claim any secondary benefits you may already have such as, Fuel Allowance and Diet Supplement. Contact your Community Welfare Officer to see how extra income may affect your Rent or Mortgage Interest Supplement.
While on VTOS, you may get a small lunch allowance and may qualify for a travel allowance depending on how far you have to travel to the VTOS centre. You may also get some childcare support.
For further information on the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme VTOS, contact your local VEC
5. Do I still 'sign on' in the same way?
If you are registered as unemployed, you will not have to 'sign on' at your local Social Welfare Office while on the course.