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If you are unemployed, parenting alone or have a disability and are getting certain payments from the Department of Social Protection, you may take part in a second-or third-level education course and get a Back to Education Allowance (BTEA).
If you want to do other types of courses not covered under the BTEA, for example, personal development courses or general training courses you may return to education under the Part-time Education option, the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) or theEducation, Training and Development option.
The Department of Social Protection has published Frequently Asked Questions about the scheme.
BTEA is only paid for courses that start in Ireland or in Northern Ireland. You can be paid BTEA for a year aboard (for example, under the Erasmus scheme) if the year is an integral or mandatory part of your course. This must be verified by the Registrar or Admissions office of your college.
For confirmation of your attendance you must provide a letter from the Student Records and Exams Office. Please email Sreo@ucc.ie or alternatively contact Student Central on https://www.ucc.ie/en/students/studentcentral/
Two study options are available under the scheme:
- Second-level option
- Third-level option
All courses must lead to a Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) accreditation (these include FETAC or HETAC awards) or equivalent. You must also progress in educational qualifications. For example, if you already have a Level 6 qualification on the National Framework of Qualifications, the course you attend must be for at least a Level 7 qualification. Since June 2014 this progression rule has been relaxed for people applying for second level courses at Levels 5 and 6 in certain limited circumstances. If you already hold a Level 5 or 6 qualification in an area that is no longer growing (obtained at least 3 years ago) and you have worked for at least 3 years and you satisfy all the other BTEA criteria, you may be allowed to do further courses at either of these levels - provided the course is at second level, will enable you to progress your career, lasts no more than 2 years (24 months) and meets future skills needs or local demand. Your DSP case officer must also recommend the course if you are getting a jobseeker's payment.
Important: Due to COVID-19, if you are on a Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the qualifying period of 3 or 9 months is waived.
Eligibility for BTEA
To qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you must be at least 21 years of age. You must be 24 for a third-level postgraduate course and be in receipt of a qualifying DEASP payment [please see below]
However, if you are getting Jobseeker's Allowance, Jobseeker's Benefit, Jobseeker's Transitional payment or One-Parent Family Payment for the required period (3 months/78 days, 9 months/234 days or 12 months/312 days), are aged between 18 and 20 and have been out of the formal education system for at least 2 years you may qualify.
If you are aged 18 or over (over 24 for the post graduate option) and getting Blind Pension, Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension or Incapacity Supplement for the required period (3 months/78 days or 9 months/234 days) you may qualify.
Unemployment or illness credits
If you are signing on for unemployment credits or submitting medical certificates for illness credits, for the required period of time (either 3, 9, 12 months or 2 years depending on your course), you may qualify to participate in the BTEA scheme on a non-payment basis. This means that you do not get a weekly Back to Education Allowance. You continue to be awarded credited contributions while you are taking part in the BTEA scheme.
If you are participating in the BTEA scheme on a non-payment basis, you can also apply for a student grant to be assessed for both the fee and maintenance component of the grant.
You must provide a certificate from the school/college confirming your registration, commencement and attendance at the course. You must supply this information before payment can begin. During the course of the academic year, you may be asked to provide confirmation that you are still taking part in the course.
If you change from a jobseeker's payment to BTEA, you do not need to sign on while you are getting BTEA.
BTEA and part-time work
Students getting BTEA who take up work during the academic year will have means from work assessed under the rules that apply to their primary payment (the payment they qualified for BTEA from).
If you were getting a jobseeker’s payment before going back to education your BTEA is not paid over the summer months period between academic years. (It will be paid from the start of the new academic year provided you continue to satisfy the eligibility criteria.)
If you are not able to find work during the summer period, you may be entitled to Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance. You must meet all the conditions including being capable of work, available for work and genuinely looking for work. If you claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) and work part-time your earnings are assessed against your JA.
If you were getting a One-Parent Family Payment, Jobseeker's Transitional payment or a disability payment before going back to education your BTEA will continue to be paid over the summer provided you are returning to an approved course and are progressing in your education. If you work over the summer your means from work are assessed using the rules that apply to the original payment.
If you stop work or your work pattern changes you should inform your Intreo centre so your case can be reassessed.
SUSI maintenance vs BTEA payments
The Student Grant Scheme is divided into 2 components – maintenance grants and fee grants. You cannot get the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) and the maintenance component of a student grant together.
As a receiptant of BTEA you can only avail of the fee grant. Although you are not entitled to the maintenance component of the student grant, you must still submit a student grant application form to be assessed for a fee grant to pay your Student Contribution, field trip costs and tuition fees (if payable).
If you are getting a One-Parent Family Payment (or Jobseeker’s Allowance Transitional payment) or a disability payment (Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension or Illness Benefit) you can choose to stay on your current social welfare payment (if you continue to meet the rules of the scheme) and apply for a student grant or you can choose to transfer to the BTEA, depending on which option benefits you most. Please note that if you do not transfer to BTEA from a qualifying payment, you may lose Allowances such as HAP, so it is important to discuss and plan what is the best option for you.
In general, people who are studying full-time are not entitled to Rent Supplement/HAP unless they are getting BTEA.
BTEA and Direct Provision Daily Expense Payment
Protection Applicants who are studying full-time (including those previously supported through the Sanctuary Programmes) and who go on to receive their stamp 4 after the commencement of the academic year are entitled to apply for BTEA. Protection Applicants who have commenced studying prior to receiving their permission to remain (stamp 4) can apply for BTEA from the date that they have received their permission to remain.
To be considered for the BTEA a Protection Applicant learner must
- Be studying a full-time course
- Be over the age of 18 years,
- Satisfy the qualification period for their course (9 months for 3rd level or 3 months for 2nd level)
- Have been in receipt of a Daily Expense Allowance while residing in direct provision and while attending college, prior to their Permission to Remain
- Have an underlying entitlement to a qualifying payment but for the fact that they have commenced their study – e.g. upon receiving their Permission to Remain, other than the fact they are in education - they would have satisfied the conditionality for Jobseekers
Where the Stamp 4 is granted before or between academic years, the BTEA is awarded for payment from the date of the commencement of the new academic year. Where a student’s Stamp 4 is granted at the mid-point of an academic year, the BTEA can be awarded from the date they have received this Permission to remain.
How to apply
When you are accepted on a course, you should notify the Department of Social Protection by filling in the Back to Education Allowance application form (pdf), which is also available from your Intreo centre. All new BTEA claims for jobseekers must be recommended by a DSP case officer before a decision can be made on your BTEA entitlement.
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.
You must apply for BTEA before your course starts (or within 30 days of the course starting).
Send your application to the section in the Department of Social Protection that deals with your payments – see ‘Where to apply’ below.
Keeping your extra benefits
If you qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you can keep your entitlement to any extra benefits you already have, for example, Fuel Allowance or Rent Supplement / HAP. However, any increase in income may affect your entitlement to Rent Supplement or the amount of supplement you get. For example, this can happen if you have additional income from part-time work.
Note: If you are in receipt of another DEASP payment, your entitlements to may change. It is important to contact your local Intreo Office or Community Welfare Officer in relation. You may also discuss with the Budgetary Advisor who can provide information in relation.
Review and appeals
The Back to Education Allowance is a non-statutory scheme. This means that decisions cannot be appealed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. If you are not satisfied with a decision you may request within 21 days (in writing) a review by an officer of the relevant social welfare local office or section, enclosing any new evidence in support of the review.
Where to Apply
If you are getting a jobseeker's payment, Farm Assist or a One-Parent Family payment you should return your application form to your Intreo centre.