Dáil debates

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

 

Back to Education Allowances.

3:00 pm

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 108 and 155 together.

The back to education allowance, BTEA, is designed to facilitate people of working age on welfare payments to return to education to gain qualifications which will help to enhance their employment prospects. Jobseekers who avail of the scheme are exempt from the requirement to be available for work while participating in an approved course and, in addition, an annual €500 cost of education allowance is payable. Participants may continue to receive any secondary benefits to which they have been entitled.

Improvements to the scheme were announced in the supplementary budget which came into effect on 1 May 2009. To qualify for participation, an applicant must now be in receipt of a relevant social welfare payment for three months if pursuing a second level course or 12 months if pursuing a third level course. The qualifying period for access to third level courses is reduced to nine months for those participating in the national employment action plan process or engaging with the Department's facilitator programme. People awarded statutory redundancy may access the scheme immediately, provided an entitlement to a relevant social welfare payment is established prior to commencing an approved course of study. In general, an applicant must be at least 21 years of age prior to commencing an approved course of study. However, lone parents and recipients of jobseekers' payments who are out of formal education for at least two years can qualify at 18 years of age.

A total of 11,710 applications have already been approved in social welfare offices this year. This is an increase of more than 2,420 on the number of applications processed this time last year. I have made a table available of the number of applications processed at each local office. Because these claims are not recorded as a separate scheme until the person transfers from their primary payment to the relevant second and third level options under the back to education scheme, statistics are not readily available as to the number of claims awaiting a decision. However, indications are that there may be up to 4,000 applications still to be decided. A significant number of these are awaiting additional documents or information from the applicants.

Due to the nature of the scheme the majority of applications are made in August and September in advance of the commencement of the new academic year. Overtime is made available to the local offices to prioritise these claims and ensure that all applications are processed as quickly as possible and in time for the commencement of the academic year. However, quite a number of people delay sending in their applications and in those cases it is not possible to guarantee that a decision will be given before commencement of the relevant course. All possible steps are being taken to ensure that applications are dealt with as speedily as possible.

Back to Education Allowance 2009
Applications Approved
Local OfficeTotal
Achill15
Apollo House59
Arklow157
Athlone271
Balbriggan56
Ballina218
Ballyfermot154
Ballymun91
Bantry60
Belmullet12
Bishop Square390
Blanchardstown130
Bray398
Buncrana99
Cahirciveen26
Carlow428
Carrick-on-Shannon38
Carrigaline171
Castlebar122
Cavan194
Clifden33
Clondalkin152
Clonmel176
Cobh60
Coolock128
Cork231
Donegal315
Drogheda245
Dun Laoghaire108
Dundalk512
Dunfanaghy45
Dungloe39
Ennis186
Finglas196
Galway306
Kenmare8
Kilbarrack162
Kilkenny310
Killarney50
King's Inns Street238
Letterkenny231
Limerick491
Listowel92
Longford101
Loughrea47
Mallow76
Manorhamilton39
Mullingar139
Navan153
Navan Road177
Newbridge268
Newcastlewest159
Nutgrove190
Sligo293
Swords100
Tallaght281
Thomas Street293
Thurles407
Tralee311
Tullamore114
Waterford565
Westport90
Wexford504
Grand Total11,710

Comments

Patricia McHugh
Posted on 8 Oct 2009 8:26 pm (Report this comment)

This is one of the most progressive and innovative schemes run by DSFA, however, it does not go far enough. It is applauded that if you are awarded statutory redundancy you may gain direct access to the Back to Education Allowance Scheme. However, over the past 10 years the notion of the long term permanent job has diminished and Employers are opting to give their employees short term contracts, thereby, with the downturn in our present economy there is huge numbers on the Live Register who never got statutory redundancy, so if they were unfortunate to lose their jobs from February onwards this year they will not meet the 234 days qualification for the Third Level Option as the majority of colleges start their courses in September.

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