Qualification for education allowance eased


There is to be an easing of the qualifying rules for the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) scheme, the Government announced today.

The scheme, which allows unemployed people who wish to enrol in full time education to retain their unemployment payments, was launched in 1990, and it is estimated that more than 12,000 participants have gained third-level qualifications with its support.

There are 7,308 participants in the scheme with 3,023 of these pursuing second level certification and 4,285 studying for third-level qualifications.

The main changes involve reducing the length of time persons must be in receipt of social welfare payments before qualifying for third level education under the scheme.

The qualifying period for those whose pursuit of third level education is assessed and approved by FÁS under the National Employment Action Plan (NEAP) has been reduced from 15 months to nine months.

For applicants who are not participating in the NEAP, the qualifying period has been reduced from 15 months to 12 months in recognition of the difficulties being experienced by some more marginalised students in accessing third-level education.

Fine Gael Social and Family Affairs Spokesperson David Stanton welcomed the changes but said that the decision should have been made sooner as it is too late for many unemployed people to apply for courses for this academic year.

The new qualifying conditions will come into effect from September in advance of the start of the 2005/2005 academic year.

The scheme had its qualifying period increased from its original six months to 15 months in December 2003 amid claims the allowance was being abused by immigrants.