Back To Education Allowance
Did you miss out on the chance to finish your Leaving Cert or go to college when you were younger?
If you're over 21 and on the dole, are a single parent or have a disability, then BTEA (Back To Education Allowance) could be for you. Think of it… a chance to enjoy student life for a few years, and open the door to a whole new world of opportunities.
The BTEA is an educational opportunities scheme for unemployed people, lone parents and people with disabilities who are receiving benefit payments from the Department of Social Protection.
There are two study options available, the Second Level option and the Third Level option. The main conditions are that the course you apply for, whether it is a degree in Social Studies or the Junior Certificate, must be full-time and approved by the relevant education bodies.
To qualify for a Back to Education Allowance you must be:
At least age 21 (24 for an approved post graduate qualification) AND getting one of the following social welfare payments for at least three months immediately before going for the Second Level option or nine months immediately before going for the Third Level option.
- Unemployment Assistance in the form of Jobseeker's Allowance or Jobseeker's Benefit
- Farm Assist
- One Parent Family Payment
- Deserted Wife's Benefit/Allowance
- Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension
- Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Non-Contributory) Pension
- Prisoners Wife's Allowance
- Carer's Allowance
- Blind Pension
- Disability Allowance
- Invalidity Pension
- Incapacity Supplement
- Illness Benefit for more than two years
Time spent on a variety of training schemes, such as FÁS/SOLAS schemes and JobBridge may count towards the qualifying period. Time spent in prison and on the YouthReach programme may count also.
If you are aged between 18-20 and have been getting Jobseeker's Allowance, Jobseeker's Benefit or One Parent Family Payment for three months (Second Level option) or nine months (Third Level option) and have been out of the formal education system for two years, you may also qualify for the BTEA.
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 (3 or 9 months) you may also qualify. Finally, you may get the Cost of Education Allowance if you are getting unemployment or illness credits. This is a one-off payment made at the start of the year to help with buying textbooks etc.
How do I get started?
- First off, contact your local school or college and ask for details of the courses available. Remember you can also get a copy of the CAO forms by visiting your local youth information centre. They can help you fill out any forms and give you practical advice if you need it. You can find more information about filling out the forms here.
- It's your responsibility to get a place on the course of your choice. Don't leave it to the last few days, as panic is a recipe for bad decisions on your future. If you want to start a course in September of any given year then get on the case in January and get a plan together.
- Remember, many college courses have places reserved for mature students (23+). These are often awarded on the basis of a personal interview so don't be put off applying for a course you have a real interest in. Get advice from your local youth centre. You may be able to contact colleges/universities from their office.
- When you have been accepted on a course, you should visit your local Intreo or Social Welfare Office. You will then be required to fill out a BTE 1 Form.
How is the BTEA paid?
- You will be paid a BTEA allowance equal to your previous social protection payment. For participants who were previously in receipt of an age-related reduced rate Jobseeker's payment, a standard maximum rate of €160 per week will apply.
- BTEA is not an unemployment payment and participants are not required to sign on. You therefore have no excuses to miss classes or lectures, so set that alarm clock!
What about the cost of books and Third Level fees?
There is no longer an entitlement to allowances for books and other educational material. Previously, there had been a provision for Cost of Education Allowances to be paid to BTEA recipients on top of their basic allowance, however this has since been discontinued.
Am I entitled to any additional benefits?
You may also keep secondary benefits you already have e.g. Christmas bonus or rent supplement. You have to apply for a rent supplement from the Health Board in the area you will be studying in. This will only cover part of your rent, but you are also entitled to take up part time employment while at college.