The Department of Social Protection (DSP) operates a range of employment support measures designed to encourage and support Social Welfare recipients of working age to reduce their dependency on welfare payments.
Amongst the supports available for the Unemployed, One Parent Family recipients and persons in receipt of a Disability related payment are Back to Education Allowance (BTEA), Part-time Education Option (PTEO) and Education, Training and Development option (E, T&D).
BACK TO EDUCATION ALLOWANCE (BTEA)
If you are unemployed, parenting alone or have a disability and are getting certain payments from the Department of Social Protection, you may attend a second or third level education course and get the BTEA subject to satisfying certain eligibility criteria. From June 2014 all new BTEA claims must be recommended and approved by a Case Officer in advance of commencing the course of fulltime study.
PART-TIME EDUCATION OPTION (PTEO)
The Part-Time Education option enables unemployed persons to attend part-time courses and retain their jobseekers provided they continue to satisfy the conditions of being available for and genuinely seeking work on an on-going basis. In the case of Jobseekers Benefit, participation on a course does not extend the period for which the benefit is paid.
EDUCATION, TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT OPTION (E, T & D)
Under this option a person in receipt of a Jobseekers payment may continue to receive the jobseekers payment while attending certain courses of short duration e.g. personal development or general training, provided specific conditions are satisfied. E, T&D courses are generally courses not covered under the BTEA scheme, It must be clear that the courses will enhance the persons employment prospects and must be approved by the Case Manager.
Two study options are available under the scheme:
Under the third level option the course being pursued must be a full-time day course of study which is:
In general you must be starting your third-level course at year one. However, you can apply for BTEA if you:
- Did not complete your course and are returning to the second or subsequent year of your course.
- Are exempt from part of your course because of a qualification you received in a previous course. For example, you have a higher certificate in a course that you now wish to pursue to degree level.
- Completed some of your course as a part-time student.
You can get the Back to Education Allowance for a postgraduate course of study that leads to a Higher Diploma (H.Dip.) qualification in any discipline or a Professional Masters in Education. Other types of postgraduate qualifications are not recognised for BTEA. You must be at least 24 years of age to be eligible for BTEA to attend for a third-level postgraduate course.
You will not get BTEA if you already have a postgraduate qualification.
Qualifying for BTEA
You may qualify for the BTEA depending on your age and circumstances. You must always have been accepted onto a qualifying course. In general you must be over 21 or over 24 for post graduate courses (see also 'Age limits' below) and have been getting a qualifying social welfare payment. From June 2014 all new BTEA claims must be recommended and approved by a Case Officer in advance of commencing the course of fulltime study.
Qualifying social welfare payments
For third level courses you must have been getting a qualifying social welfare payment (see above) for 9 months (234 days of unemployment*)immediately before you start the course.
Number of unemployment days which are paid or credited in accordance with jobseekers legislation.
Periods spent on the BTEA, Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS), 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 or Job Assist may count towards the qualifying period for BTEA purposes.
NOTE: Qualified Adults on these schemes are not eligible for BTEA.
This provision applies only in cases where the applicant has established an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment immediately prior to commencement of their course.
- Periods spent on any qualifying payment and periods on other activation schemes which are not broken by more than 12 months (52 weeks) can be used in determining if an applicant satisfies the qualifying period criteria.
- 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.
If you have been awarded statutory redundancy under Irish legislation and are entitled to a qualifying social welfare payment immediately before you start the course you can get immediate access to the BTEA without any waiting period. You must take part in the BTEA scheme within one year of getting statutory redundancy.
To qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you must be at least 21 years of age. You must be 24 for a third-level postgraduate course.
However, if you are getting Jobseeker's Allowance, Jobseeker's Benefit or One-Parent Family Payment for the required period (9 months/234 days), are aged between 18 and under 21 and have been out of the formal education system for at least 2 years you may qualify.
If you are aged 18 or over (over 24 for the post graduate option) and getting Blind Pension, Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension or Incapacity Supplement for the required period (9 months) you may qualify for BTEA. In the case of Illness Benefit, the required period is 2 years).
Unemployment or illness credits
If you are signing on for unemployment credits or submitting medical certificates for illness credits, for the required period of time (9 months). In the case of Illness Benefit, the required period is 2 years, you may qualify to participate in the BTEA scheme on a non-payment basis. This means that you do not get a weekly Back to Education Allowance. You continue to be awarded credited contributions while you are taking part in the BTEA scheme. See paragraph "How to apply" below.
If you are participating in the BTEA scheme on a non-payment basis, you can also apply for a student grant to be assessed for the fee and maintenance component of the grant.
Other people who can qualify for BTEA
Both partners can simultaneously qualify for a BTEA payment and can be supported to undertake courses of study.
The Qualified Adult Dependent of a person in receipt of one of the qualifying payments for BTEA purposes may be approved for BTEA provided they establish an entitlement to a BTEA qualifying payment in their own right and subject to satisfying all other BTEA conditions. Periods spent in receipt of a Qualified Adult Allowance on qualifying payments should be counted in addition to any periods in receipt of a qualifying payment in their own right provided the claims are not broken by more than 12 months. This provision does not extend to provide eligibility for the Qualified Adult Dependent of person made Statutory Redundant.
Eligibility to BTEA does not extend to Qualified Adults of participants of activation schemes
Exceptions to study while on a DSP payment.
If you are in receipt of One Parent Family payment and Illness/Disability related payments from DSP you are allowed to undertake a course of study in Ireland provided you continue to satisfy the rules and conditions of the relevant scheme. You have to notify the scheme area of your intention to pursue a course of study.
The Student Grant Scheme is divided into 2 components – maintenance grants and fee grants. You cannot get the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) and the maintenance component of a student grant together.
Although you are not entitled to the maintenance component of the student grant, you must still submit a student grant application form to be assessed for a fee grant to pay your Student Contribution ((also known as Registration fee), field trip costs and tuition fees (if payable).
If you are getting a One Parent Family Payment or a disability payment (Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension or Illness Benefit) you can choose to stay on your current social welfare payment and apply for a student grant or you can choose to transfer to the BTEA, whichever benefits you most. If your course requires you to travel abroad for your Erasmus year, your primary payment will not continue to be paid while abroad. you must weigh up your income support options over the duration of your college course.
In general, you do not have an entitlement to Rent Allowance while engaging in full-time study except you are in receipt of BTEA or VTOS. You should notify the scheme area of your intentions. For further information log on to www.susi.ie
You must provide a certificate from the school/college confirming your registration, commencement and finish date of the course. You must supply this information before payment can begin. During the course of the academic year, you may be asked to provide confirmation that you are still taking part in the course.
If you change from a jobseeker's payment to BTEA, you do not need to sign on at your Social Welfare Local Office while you are getting BTEA.
BTEA participants may commence part-time employment while on BTEA without affecting the rate of payment. Employment must not affect your attendance on the course.
If you are a new entrant on a Social Protection payment, other than an age related job seekers payment, who qualifies for the Back to Education Allowance, the weekly rate will be equivalent to the value of the qualifying payment and subject to the provisions of the means test (where applicable) to the qualifying payment.
Where applicable, you may also qualify for increases in respect of a qualified adult and each qualified child.
From 1 January 2014, if you are a new entrant under 26 years of age on an age related jobseekers payment, a new personal maximum rate of €160 applies. In cases where means exist, they will be assessed against the €160 rate.
Keeping your secondary benefits
If you qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you can keep your entitlement to any secondary benefits you already have, for example, Fuel Allowance, Rent Supplement and Mortgage Interest Supplement. However, any increase in income may affect your entitlement to these allowances.
How to apply
When you are accepted on a course, you should notify the Department of Social Protection by filling in the Back to Education Allowance application form (pdf), which is also available from your Social Welfare Local Office.
You must apply for BTEA before starting an approved course. A late application will be accepted if there is a good reason for it being late and it is received by the relevant section in the Department within 30 days of the course starting.
Send your application to the section in the Department of Social Protection that deals with your payments.
Review and appeals
The Back to Education Allowance is a non-statutory scheme. This means that decisions cannot be appealed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. If you are not satisfied with a decision you may request (in writing) a review by a higher officer of the relevant Social Welfare Local Office or Department Section, enclosing any new evidence in support of the review.
Where to apply
If you are getting a jobseeker's payment, Farm Assist or One Parent Family payment (paid by your local Social Welfare office), you should return your application form to your Social Welfare Local Office.
If you are getting Illness Benefit contact:
Back to Education Section
Department of Social Protection
Illness Benefit Section
Aras Mhic Dhiarmada
Tel: 01 7043294 or 01 7043696
Locall:1890 927 999
If you are getting a Blind Pension, One-Parent Family Payment (paid from Social Welfare Services Office, Sligo), a Deserted Wife's payment, Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Partner's (Non-Contributory) Pension, or Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Partner's (Contributory) Pension contact:
Department of Social Protection
Social Welfare Services
Tel:(071) 915 7100
Locall:1890 500 000
If you are getting Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, Incapacity Supplement or Carer's Allowance contact:
Department of Social Protection
Social Welfare Services Office
Tel:(043) 334 0000
Locall:1890 927 770