Minister Burton announces enhancements to Back to Education Programme for jobseekers

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The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D., has today announced (Thursday, 15th May 2014) a number of significant enhancements to the Back to Education Programme (BTE) which will take effect from 1st June 2014 for the forthcoming academic year.

The BTE programme is a second-chance education scheme for jobseekers, lone parents and people with disabilities who are getting certain social welfare payments. Under the programme, income support is provided to allow participants undertake a second-level or third-level course to improve their education and skills.

The enhancements now being rolled out will support the policies outlined in the Government’s Pathways to Work strategy, which seeks to help 75,000 long-term unemployed people return to work by the end of 2015.

The key enhancements being introduced include:

  • Applicants wishing to pursue the new Professional Master’s in Education will be able to avail of the BTE programme; 
  • Applicants who already hold a Level 5 or 6 qualification under the National Framework of Qualifications will now be allowed to undertake further courses of study at either of these levels to further their professional/career development and their overall job prospects; 
  • Confirmation that applicants for the Department of Education’s Springboard and Momentum initiatives in the forthcoming academic year will be supported under the BTE programme; and
  • Revised application and selection processes and a stronger role for the Department in working with unemployed clients who are considering undertaking a course of study.  

Minister Burton said: “The enhancements I am now introducing will ensure that the BTE programme is better equipped to help jobseekers return to work. The changes will help in particular those jobseekers with good mid-range qualifications and will help them to complement and develop these skills and qualifications to access emerging job offers.”

The Department of Social Protection is providing income support under the BTE programme to nearly 25,000 jobseekers at various levels of education for the academic year 2013/14 at an estimated cost of €183 million, and plans to maintain this level of support for 2014/15.

“Economic recovery will present both opportunities and challenges to jobseekers and this will be particularly acute for those that have been longest out of the jobs market.  Through a combination of supports across Government Departments, and the schemes offered by the Department of Social Protection, we want to ensure that jobseekers are equipped to meet these opportunities and challenges,” the Minister added.

“While we have made good progress in tackling unemployment, which has fallen from a crisis peak of 15.1% to 11.7% now, it remains too high, and we need to constantly improve our supports and services for jobseekers seeking to improve their skills.  These enhancements to the BTE programme are part of an ongoing process to ensure that jobseekers have the skills to target the new jobs being created as the economic recovery begins to pick up pace.”



Note to Editors

Back to Education Allowance
The Back to Education Programme (BTE) is an education opportunities scheme for jobseekers, lone parents and people with disabilities who are getting certain social welfare payments that allows them to participate in full time education. The Department's objective in this area is to raise educational and skills levels among long-term unemployed people, in order to help them meet the requirements of the labour market.  Back to Education programmes generally were introduced to provide a comprehensive range of options from which an unemployed person can choose, or be directed to, the most appropriate for their needs.

A jobseeker wishing to pursue the BTE needs to satisfy a number of conditions, for example, age and being in receipt of a prescribed social welfare payment for a specified time period.  In general, an applicant must be in receipt of a relevant social welfare payment for 3 months if pursuing a second level course, or 9 months if pursuing a third level course.  People who are awarded statutory redundancy may, provided an entitlement to a relevant social welfare payment is established, access the scheme immediately prior to commencing an approved course of study.  Eligible courses of education include those from second level to Higher Diploma level (H Dip) in any discipline [level 8 in the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ)] and to a Professional Masters in Education.

Professional Masters in Education
Currently, support for undertaking a course at Masters Level is confined to jobseekers with no previous educational qualification (other than based on life experience).  From September this year, the existing Higher Diploma in Education will be replaced by a new Professional Masters in Education.  In line with this development, eligibility under the BTE has been extended to provide income support.  A jobseeker must be over 24 years old and on a jobseeker's payment for at least 12 months to qualify.

Springboard 2014
Springboard 2014 offers a choice of over 200 free, part-time courses in higher education at certificate, degree, and post-graduate level.  All courses lead to qualifications in enterprise sectors which are growing and need skilled personnel, including information and communications technology (ICT); manufacturing; international financial services; and key skills for enterprise to trade internationally. Qualifications are also available in cross-enterprise skills such as innovation, enterprise, entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and project management.

Co-financed by the EU, Momentum provides a range of free education and training courses (up to level 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications) and work placement opportunities for unemployed people to gain valuable skills and work experience in sectors where job opportunities exist including the ICT sector, the medical devices sector, the manufacturing sector and the green energy sector. Over 6,500 places were made available through Momentum in 2013 and a further round of this programme will be launched this year.  Further information on how to apply and the courses available can be found at

Last modified:15/05/2014