If you’re over 24 and either unemployed, parenting alone, or you have a disability, and you receive certain payments from the Department of Social Protection, then you could be eligible for the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) to take on a postgraduate course.
The BTEA can only be granted for certain postgraduate courses.
In this article:
- What is the Back to Education Allowance?
- Am I eligible for BTEA for postgraduate study?
- BTEA and other payments
- How do I apply for the Back to Education Allowance?
What is Back to Education Allowance?
The Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) is a payment that helps people who are unemployed, are getting a One-Parent Family Payment or have a disability, to attend approved second-or third-level education courses.
What postgraduate course can I study under Back to Education Allowance?
The types of postgraduate courses covered by the Back to Education Allowance include:
- A Higher Diploma (H.Dip) in any discipline
- A Professional Masters in Education (PME)
- A Master degree based on life experience where the applicant holds no other third level qualification. This is when a college has admitted a person without a third level qualification to a Masters course because they have relevant life experience
Other types of postgraduate qualifications are not recognised by the BTEA. This includes MA, MSc, M.Eng, M.Phil., MBA and Professional Graduate Diploma.
You cannot qualify for BTEA for a postgraduate course if you already hold a postgraduate qualification, unless it is a Springboard course.
Am I eligible for Back to Education Allowance?
To qualify for the BTEA as a postgraduate student, you must be over 24 and be getting a qualifying social welfare payment. You must have been accepted onto a qualifying course.
What are the qualifying social welfare payments?
The qualifying social welfare payments for postgraduate BTEA are:
- 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 two 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.
- Deserted Wife’s Benefit or Allowance
- Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Contributory) Pension
- Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Non-Contributory) Pension
How long do I have to be receiving payments before I qualify?
For third level courses, you have to have been getting a qualifying social welfare payment for 9 months. For the Professional Masters in Education (PME) you must have been getting your qualifying social welfare payment for 12 months.
You must be getting the qualifying payment immediately before you start the course.
You do not have to have been getting your qualifying payment continuously. If you’ve been on other qualifying social welfare payments or getting credits over a period of time that was not broken up by up to 12 months, this can be used towards determining if you qualify for BTEA.
Other payments that can count towards you qualifying for the BTEA include time spent on:
- 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
- Community Services Programme
- Rural Social Scheme
- Workplace Placement Scheme
- Back to Work Enterprise Allowance
- Short Term Enterprise Allowance
- Job Initiative, Job Assist and JobBridge may count towards the qualifying period for BTEA purposes
- 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
- If you spent time in prison in the Irish State, this can count towards the qualifying period provided you establish an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment
- Time spent on Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA), the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment or in Direct Provision can count towards the qualifying period for BTEA.
- If you have been awarded statutory redundancy and are entitled to a qualifying social welfare payment immediately before you start the course, you can get immediate access to the BTEA. You must take part in the BTEA scheme within one year of getting statutory redundancy and satisfy all other conditions
This provision only applies where you have established an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment immediately before you start your course of study.
Getting the BTEA and other payments
It’s important to be aware of the other payments you can and cannot receive while on BTEA.
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. This means 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, Jobseeker’s Transitional Payment or a disability payment, you can choose either to stay on your current social welfare payment and apply for a student grant, or you transfer to the BTEA . If you transfer to the BTEA, you will not longer qualify for the maintenance grant. It is up to you to pick the option that benefits you most.
Normally, if you are studying full-time, you are not entitled to Rent Supplement unless you are getting BTEA.
Work and BTEA
You cannot work full-time while receiving BTEA. If you work part-time while receiving BTEA, you will be assessed under the rules (including means assessment) that apply to their primary payment. The primary payment is the payment that you received before BTEA. 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 with 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 as long as you are returning to the course.
How do I apply for BTEA?
It will be up to you to make arrangements when it comes to getting accepted to a course. Here are some steps to start:
Contact a college or university
First off, contact colleges and ask for details of the courses available.
Apply for the course of your choice
It’s your responsibility to get a place on the course of your choice. Try to get your application in well in advance. You must apply for Back To Education Allowance before your course starts (or within 30 days of the course starting).
Visit your local Intreo
When you have been accepted on a course, you should contact your local Intreo or Social Welfare Office. They will ask you to fill out a BTE 1 Form.
It is important to get written confirmation that you have 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. For more information about the rates of payment, and where to apply, check out the Citizens Information Website.
Need more information?
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