Back to Education Allowance – Second Level

Find out if you’re entitled to attend a second-level course with the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA).

Written by spunout


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:

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

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:

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 early. You must apply for BTEA before your course starts (or within 30 days of the course starting).

Complete the Back to Education Allowance Application

When you have been accepted on a course, you will be required to fill out a BTE 1 form. To access the form, visit your local Intreo or Social Welfare Office or find it online here. You must be recommended for the BTEA by a DSP Employment Personal Advisor, or if you’re a jobseeker making a new BTEA claim, a job coach. 

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 from BTEA until you give this confirmation letter to the Department of Social Protection. Send your application to the section of the DSP that deals with your primary payment.

For more information, check out the welfare website.

Need more information, advice or guidance?

We offer information, advice and guidance about the issues that matter to you. Our online Youth Information Chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm (excluding Bank Holidays).

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