If you are unemployed, getting a One-Parent Family Payment or have a disability, you may attend a second-or third-level education course and get the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA). The weekly Allowance is paid at a standard rate and is not means-tested. However, the increase you get for a qualified adult may be means-tested if your spouse/partner has earnings.
In addition to your weekly BTEA payment, you will also get an annual Cost of Education Allowance of €500, which is paid at the start of each academic year.
A meal and travel allowance similar to VTOS is available to BTEA students, application forms from VTOS coordinator.
People signing on for unemployment credits or submitting medical certificates for illness credits may get a Cost of Education Allowance - see 'Unemployment or illness credits' in 'Rules' below.
All successful applicants must pay a deposit of €40 to secure place on their course, the balance of the course fee must be paid on registration day in late August.
You cannot become a fully registered BCFE student until COURSE FEES are paid in full.
If you qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you will keep an entitlement to any secondary benefits you already have, for example, Christmas Bonus, Fuel Allowance, Rent Supplement and Mortgage Interest Supplement. However, any increase in income may affect your entitlement to Rent / Mortgage Interest Supplement or the amount of supplement you get. For example, this can happen if you move from a reduced social welfare payment to the standard BTEA rate.
From September 2010, you will not get the Back to Education Allowance and student maintenance grant, if you:
Although you are not entitled to a maintenance grant, you must still submit a maintenance grant application form to get payment of the student service charge and tuition fees. Contact your local authority or VEC for more information.
If you are getting one of the social welfare payments listed below, you can choose to stay on your current social welfare payment and apply for a maintenance grant or transfer to the BTEA. You can find out whether BTEA is the best option for you.
If you are currently getting the Back to Education Allowance and the student maintenance grant, you will continue to be eligible for both payments in the following circumstances:
You must continue to meet the terms and conditions of both schemes.
If you are participating in the BTEA scheme on a non-payment basis (only getting the Cost of Education Allowance) because you were signing on or sending medical certs for credits, you can also apply for a maintenance grant.
You may qualify for BTEA if you are not getting a social welfare payment but your spouse/civil partner/cohabitant is getting an Increase for a Qualified Adult in their social welfare payment for you. To qualify your spouse/civil partner/cohabitant must have an entitlement to BTEA and be getting an Increase for a Qualified Adult in his/her social welfare payment for you as an adult dependant for the required amount of time - see 'Rules' below.
If you qualify for BTEA because you are an adult dependant, you will get the same social welfare payment as your spouse/civil partner/cohabitant but at the maximum standard personal rate. Your spouse/civil partner/cohabitant will keep his/her entitlement to his/her personal rate of payment. You will also qualify for the annual Cost of Education Allowance.
If you get the Back to Education Allowance your spouse/civil partner/cohabitant can still keep his/her entitlement to the BTEA.
To qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you must be at least 21 years of age (24 years of age for a third-level postgraduate course). For exceptions to the age limit - see below.
If you wish to attend a second level course you must be getting one of the social welfare payments listed below for at least 3 months (78 days of unemployment*) immediately before you start the course.
If you wish to attend a third level course you must be getting one of the social welfare payments listed below for 9 months (234 days of unemployment*) immediately before you start the course.
*If you are getting a jobseeker's payment, each day you are unemployed, except Sunday, is counted as a day of unemployment.
Qualifying social welfare payments are:
If you are getting Illness Benefit for 2 years or more you can also qualify for the Allowance.
Time spent on BTEA, VTOS, FÁS training courses, Fáilte Ireland Training course, Community Employment schemes, FIT, Rural Social Scheme, Back to Work Allowance, Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, Short Term Enterprise Allowance, FÁS Job Initiative, Revenue Job Assist, Supplementary Welfare Allowance, in prison or in Direct Provision can count towards the qualifying period. You may go directly from one of the above schemes to Back to Education Allowance provided you were getting one of the qualifying social welfare payments listed above before you started the scheme. You must start your approved course of study within four weeks of leaving the scheme. Otherwise you must be getting a qualifying social welfare payment immediately before starting an approved course of study.
If you are awarded statutory redundancy under Irish legislation, you can have immediate access to the BTEA. To qualify you must:
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 (see ‘Rules’ above), you may qualify to participate in the BTEA scheme. You will not get a weekly Back to Education Allowance, but you can get the Cost of Education Allowance. This is a once off payment at the beginning of each academic year. You will continue to be awarded credited contributions while you are taking part in the BTEA scheme.
To qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you must be at least 21 years of age (24 years of age 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 of time and aged between 18 and 20 and you have been out of the formal education system for at least 2 years you may qualify for Back to Education Allowance.
If you are aged 18 or over and getting Blind Pension, Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension or Incapacity Supplement for the required period of time you may qualify for the Allowance. The Allowance has also been extended to people with disabilities who have left Community Employment schemes and who, when beginning the scheme, were not getting a qualifying social welfare payment. In this case, you must begin the course within 4 weeks of finishing the scheme.
There are two study options available under the scheme:
You can attend a second-level course of education at any secondary, community, comprehensive or vocational school. The course must be full-time and lead to a certificate recognised by the Department of Education and Skills or approved by the Further Education and Training Awards Council, for example, Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate, Post Leaving Certificate or a City and Guilds Certificate.
You can attend a third-level course of education at any university, third-level college or institution, provided that the course is a full-time day course of study and is approved by one of the following:
You must be starting your third-level course at year one. However, you can apply for BTEA if you:
You may 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 Graduate Diploma in Education (primary and secondary teaching). Other types of postgraduate qualifications are not recognised for BTEA.
You will not get BTEA if you already have a postgraduate qualification.
You must provide a certificate from the school/college in question confirming your registration, commencement and attendance at the course. You will be requested to 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 will not need to sign on at your Social Welfare Local Office while you are getting BTEA.
Back to Education Allowance is paid at a standard rate. This means, if you are getting a reduced rate of payment it will be increased to the maximum standard rate of payment while you are getting BTEA. If you are already getting the maximum rate, you will continue to do so.
For example, if you are getting a jobseeker's payment, you will be paid a Back to Education Allowance at the maximum standard rate of Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance. It will include any increases you are getting for a qualified adult and qualified children.
Back to Education Allowance is payable in the same way as your current social welfare payment. It is paid for the duration of the course. If you were previously getting a jobseeker's payment, you will not get the Back to Education Allowance during the summer period between academic years. However, you can apply for Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance. You may get BTEA during the summer if you are on work placement or work experience that is an essential part of your course.
Contact your local second- or third-level school or college to get details of the courses available. They will also advise you on how to get a place on the course of your choice.
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 get written confirmation that you are registered as a full-time day student from the college registrar or admission officer. You will not get payment of BTEA or the Cost of Education Allowance until you give this confirmation letter to the Department of Social Protection.
If you are not fully registered because your college is awaiting payment of the student services charge (also known as the registration fee) from your local authority or VEC, you must get a letter from the college explaining this so that you can get paid BTEA.
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 you application to the section in the Department of Social Protection that deals with your payments – see ‘Where to apply’ below.
If you are getting a jobseeker's payment, you should return your application form to your Social Welfare Local Office.
If you are getting Illness Benefit contact:
Department of Social Protection
Social Welfare Services Office
Tel: (071) 967 2616
Locall: 1890 927 999
If you are getting One-Parent Family Payment, a deserted wife's payment, Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Partner's (Non-Contributory) Pension, Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Partner's (Contributory) Pension or Blind Pension contact:
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:
Social Welfare Services Office
Tel: (043) 334 0000
Locall: 1890 927 770