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Back to Education Allowance - Third Level

What is the BTEA and how do I qualify?


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in employment


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What is the Back to Education Allowance?


If you are unemployed, parenting alone or have a disability and are getting certain payments from the Department of Social Protection, you may take part in a third-level education course and get Back to Education Allowance (BTEA).

From 2016/17 BTEA is only paid for courses that start in Ireland or Northern Ireland. You can get paid BTEA for a year abroad (Erasmus) if the year is a mandatory part of your course. This must be verified by the Admissions office of your college.

What type of third level courses are covered under this scheme?

You can attend any third-level course in an approved third level institution. The course must be a full-time day course and be approved for the Student Grant Scheme or be approved by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC).

You must be starting your third-level course at year one, generally. But you may be eligible for BTEA if you:

  • Are exempt from part of your course because of a qualification you received in a previous course.
  • Completed a year (or years) of your course as a part-time student. 
  • Completed ealier years before becoming unemployed or receiving statutory redunancy.
  • Are permitted by your school or college to proceed to the next year of a course having dropped out or deferred a year.

How do I qualify for Back to Education Allowance?

In general, to qualify for the BTEA you must be over 21 and have been getting a qualifying social welfare payment. You must also have been accepted onto a qualifying course.

However, if you are getting Jobseeker's Allowance, Jobseeker's Benefit, Jobseeker's Transitional payment or One-Parent Family Payment for the required period (3 months, 9 months or 12 months), are aged between 18 and 20 and have been out of the formal education system for at least 2 years you may qualify.

If you are aged 18 or over and getting Blind Pension, Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension or Incapacity Supplement for the required period (3 months or 9 months) you may qualify.

What are the qualifying social welfare payments?

  • Jobseeker's Allowance or Jobseeker's Benefit
  • Jobseeker's Transitional payment
  • Farm Assist
  • One-Parent Family Payment
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Blind Pension
  • Disability Allowance
  • Invalidity Pension
  • Incapacity Supplement (based on a life Disablement Pension)
  • Illness Benefit for 2 years or more. (However periods spent on Illness Benefit can count towards the qualifying period if you qualify from another payment. Half of the qualifying period must relate to the qualifying payment.)

Can I qualify for the Student Grant Scheme and the Back to Education Allowance?


You cannot get the maintenance component of the student grant and the Back to Education Allowance together.

Although you cannot get the maintenance component of the student grant, you must still submit a student grant application form so you can be assessed for a fee grant to pay your Student Contribution (or Registration Fee).

If you are getting a One-Parent Family Payment (or Jobseeker's Transitional Payment) or a disability payment, you can choose to say on your current social welfare payment and apply for a student grant or you can choose to transfer to the BTEA, depending on which option benefits you most.

Normally, if you are studying full-time you are not entitled to Rent Supplement unless you are getting BTEA.

What is the qualifying period?

For third level courses, you have to have been getting a qualifying social welfare payment for 9 months. You must be getting the qualifying payment immediately before you start the course.

How do I satisfy the qualifying period?

You do not have to have been getting your qualifying payment continuously. Periods spent on other qualifying social welfare payments (or getting credits) that are not broken by more than 12 months (52 weeks) can be used to determine whether you satisfy the qualifying period criteria. You must always be getting a qualifying payment immediately before starting your course.

Time spent on the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA), Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS), full-time FET (formerly FÁS) training courses, Community Employment schemes, Part-time Job Incentive scheme, Gateway, Community Services Programme, Rural Social Scheme, TÚS, Workplace Placement Scheme (WPP), Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, Short Term Enterprise Allowance, Job Initiative, Job Assist and JobBridge may count towards the qualifying period for BTEA purposes. This provision only applies where you have established an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment immediately before you start your course of study.

Time spent on Youthreach can count towards the qualifying period provided you establish an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment before or after completing the Youthreach programme. Time spent in prison in the Irish State can count towards the qualifying period provided you establish an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment.

Time spent on Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) or on direct provision can count towards the qualifying period for BTEA. This applies only if you establish an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment immediately before you start your course of study and satisfy the linking rules.

Can I work while receiving BTEA?

From 2016/17 academic year, people getting BTEA who start work during the academic year will be assessed under the rules (including means assessment) that apply to their primary payment.  You will not get BTEA during the summer months if you are returning to college for the next academic year. 

You might receive Jobseeker's Allowance or Jobseeker's Benefit during the summer period if you meet all the conditions associated to the payments. If you are getting a One-Parent Family Payment, Jobseeker's Transitional payment or a disability payment before getting BTEA, you will continue to be paid BTEA during the summer. 

How do I apply?

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, which is also available from your Intreo centre. 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 until you give this confirmation letter to the Department of Social Protection. You must apply for BTEA before your course starts (or within 30 days of the course starting).

For more information about the rates of payment, and where to apply, check out the Citizens Information Website

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Published September 20th, 2016
Last updated November 29th, 2016
Tags employment back to education allowance education training
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