Have you ever thought about returning to second-level education after leaving school early the first time around? The Back to Education Allowance at second level gives those who left school early a chance to gain a qualification.
If you’re over 21 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).
This could give you the opportunity to attend a second-level course at any secondary, community, comprehensive or vocational school.
What kind of course can I do on BTEA?
The course must be full-time and lead to a certificate recognised by the Department of Education and Skills or approved by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), for example:
- Junior Certificate
- Leaving Certificate
- Post Leaving Certificate
- City and Guilds Certificate.
- An Access or Foundation course is considered to be a second-level course for BTEA purposes.
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 have been accepted onto a qualifying course.
However, if you are aged between 18 and 20, 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), 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 also qualify.
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.)
How long do I have to be receiving payments before I qualify?
For second level courses you must have been getting a qualifying social welfare payment for at least 3 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 (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
- 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.
- 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 without any waiting period. You must take part in the BTEA scheme within one year of getting statutory redundancy and satisfy all the 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.
How do I apply for Back to Education Allowance?
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 school or college
First off, contact your local school or college 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 to avoid any last-minute panic, and to be sure you’re making the right decision. 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.
You must apply for BTEA before your course starts (or within 30 days of the course starting).
Visit your local INTREO 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. Click here to find out how to fill out the BTE 1 form.
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.
For more information, check the welfare website.
Need more information?
We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.