Did you miss out on the opportunity to go to college? Would you love to go back to education and get a taste of college life?
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 take part in a third-level education course.
What can I study?
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 earlier years before becoming unemployed or receiving statutory redundancy.
- 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 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.
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.)
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 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 either to stay on your current social welfare payment and apply for a student grant, or you can choose to transfer to the BTEA (but you will not longer qualify for the maintenance grant), 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.
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. 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.
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 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 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
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 about the rates of payment, and where to apply, check out the Citizens Information 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.