Adult literacy supports and services

There are free supports available to adults who struggle with literacy

Written by spunout


Literacy is more than just reading and writing. Literacy skills also include listening, speaking, using numbers and using everyday technology. If you find any of these tasks challenging, it is important to know that there are free programmes and supports that can help.

The Education and Training Board (ETB) runs an adult literacy service that helps people to improve at reading, writing and maths. It is free and open to anyone who needs it.

What is the adult literacy service?

If you are over 18 and have any trouble with reading, writing, maths or technology, you can apply for support through the ETB’s adult literacy service. You can get free adult literacy classes locally, by phone or online.

Who is the adult literacy service for?

There are many reasons why someone would want to use adult literacy services. These can include:

  • Self-improvement and personal development
  • Learning for work
  • Help with their children’s homework
  • Filling in forms
  • Reading instructions
  • Paying bills
  • Shopping online

Whatever your reasons, remember that the service is for everyone and you have a right to use it. You don’t need to have finished any level of education to start using the service.

What is involved in the adult literacy service?

The adult literacy service in your local Education and Training Board (ETB) gives reading, writing, maths and computer classes for adults. They have centres around the country.

Depending on your needs, there are different areas covered by the Adult Literacy Scheme. These can include:

  • Reading and writing
  • Everyday maths and applying numbers
  • Communication
  • Problem solving

Literacy classes

ETB literacy classes are based around your needs as an individual. You and your tutor will decide together what you want to work on, and you will work together to improve your skills.

Classes are planned to suit you and are usually around two hours long per week. Your attendance is confidential – nobody needs to know about it except you and the ETB staff.


Tutors are trained to make sure they teach in a relaxing environment. If you aren’t happy with your tutor for any reason, talk to the person in charge of the service. This is usually the Adult Literacy Officer. They will keep what you say confidential and can arrange a new tutor if needed.

How to apply for an adult literacy service

If you want to take literacy classes from your local ETB, you can find their contact details on the Adult Literacy for Life website. The person in charge of adult literacy at each ETB is the Adult Literacy Officer (ALO). You can contact them and start a course at any time of the year.

After you contact the ETB, the person in charge will call you in for a meeting. They will ask you about your individual needs and arrange for you to meet a tutor.

How long can I use the service for?

You can keep using the service for as long as you want. You can also take breaks and come back as many times as you need.

Other ways to improve your literacy

If you don’t want to take part in an ETB scheme for any reason, there are other ways you can improve your reading and writing.

The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) is a charity that works to improve adult literacy in Ireland.

All of NALA’s literacy services are free and you can:

  • Learn with a tutor on the phone or by post
  • Learn online at your own speed

Find out more about services offered by NALA on the NALA website. You can also contact NALA by Freephone 1800 20 20 65.

If you’re a member of a trade union, ask them if they provide adult literacy classes. Many of them offer free courses to their members.

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.

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