Back to Education Allowance - BTEA

Back to Education Programme (BTE)
The BTE programme, which encompasses the Back to Education Allowance, Part-Time Education Options and Education, Training and Development Options, is a second-chance education scheme for Jobseekers, lone parents
and people with disabilities who are getting certain Social Welfare payments.

Back to Education Allowance (BTEA)
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection administers the Back to Education Allowance. This scheme allows you to keep your Social Welfare payment and return to approved full-time second and third level
courses. The approved full time education course must lead to a higher qualification on the National Framework Qualifications (NFQ) other than that already held. There are two education options available.

• Second level option • Third level option

BTEA – Assessment of Income from part-time Employment
Since the 2016/2017 academic year, people getting BTEA who take up work during the academic year will be assessed under the rules (including means assessment) that apply to their primary payment - the payment they qualified for BTEA from. This only applies to new applicants or people who return to BTEA after a break.

 

BTEA – Means Assessment:
John is a single person, aged 26, currently on the BTEA, having previously been on
Jobseeker’s Allowance of €203. His rate of payment on BTEA is €203.
He has been offered 15 hours’ work over 5 days @ €9.80 per hour = €147. If he takes the
job his BTEA will be affected as follows:
Jobseeker’s Allowance Means Test as applies to BTEA rate:
— €20 disregard per day at a maximum of 3 days = €60
— The balance is then assessed at 60%
— €147 (wages) - €60 = €87 assessed at 60% = €52.20
Assessable Means of €52.20 assessed against BTEA of €203
New Rate of BTEA payable:
• John’s BTEA payment will be reduced by €52.20 per week
• John’s BTEA payment will be reduced from €203 to €150.80 per week


BTEA – Redundancy
If you are awarded statutory redundancy under Irish legislation, you can have immediate access to the BTEA (or within one year of the award of the statutory redundancy) without the requirement that you be in receipt of a qualifying payment. You must be entitled to a qualifying Social Welfare payment before starting the course, it is not necessary to actually be receiving the payment.  CLICK for back to top menu


BTEA – Second Level Option (SLO)
You can attend a second level course of education at any community, comprehensive, secondary or vocational school, with which the Department of Education and Skills has a funding relationship. The course must be full-time
and lead to a certificate recognised by the Department of Education and Skills or approved by QQI (formerly FETAC), e.g. Junior Cert., Leaving Cert., PostLeaving Cert or foundation/access courses at Universities or Institutes of Technology or a City and Guilds Certificate. CLICK for back to top menu

 

BTEA – Third Level Option (TLO)
You can attend a third level course of education at any university, third level college or institution, provided that the course is a full-time day course of study and is approved.
A single Student Grant Scheme replaced the 4 main support schemes for students. Student grants are divided into maintenance grants, fee grants and the postgraduate contribution. A maintenance grant is a contribution towards
the student’s living costs. A fee grant can cover all or part of a student’s tuition fees (unless covered by the Free Fees Scheme). There is detailed information on the range of grants and funds for students in further and higher education on the website www.studentfinance.ieCLICK for back to top menu

 

BTEA – Postgraduate option
If you already have an undergraduate third-level qualification (i.e. a degree), your application for a BTEA while pursuing post-graduate education will only be considered if you are doing a Higher Diploma in any discipline or the
Professional Diploma in Education (Primary or Secondary teaching only). (Only Postgraduate courses in Ireland are eligible for the BTEA). Under no circumstances will the BTEA be awarded to a person who already holds a
postgraduate qualification. CLICK for back to top menu

 

BTEA – Payment on the BTEA
The Back to Education Allowance will only be paid for the 9-month academic year for those in receipt of Jobseekers payments. It is NOT payable for the 3 month summer period between academic years. BTEA participants who are unable to find employment during the summer period may be entitled to claim a jobseeker payment. They will be required to satisfy the normal qualifying conditions. CLICK for back to top menu


BTEA – Other Payments
People getting a Back to Education Allowance cannot work full-time and are not eligible for Community Employment, Social Economy Programme, Tús, Rural Social Scheme, any other FET or Fáilte Ireland training programmes, Parttime Job Incentive Scheme or any other employment or training scheme or programme operated by the National Learning Network. People getting a Back to Education Allowance are not eligible for Working Family Payment (WFP). CLICK for back to top menu

BTEA – Monitoring Arrangements
You must provide the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection with a certificate from the school/college confirming your registration as a full time student, commencement date and attendance at the course. You must supply this information to the DEASP before payment on the BTEA 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.

CLICK for back to top menu

Who is eligible for the Back to Education Allowance?
You will be eligible for the Back to Education Allowance if you are:
• Aged 21 or over and in receipt of one of the qualifying payments, or
• Aged 18 or over and in receipt of a (specified) disability payment, or
• Aged between 18 and 21 years of age and out of formal education for at least two years,
or
• Awarded Statutory Redundancy payment and are entitled to one of the qualifying Social
Welfare payments. CLICK for back to top menu

 

BTEA – Second Level option (SLO)
• Aged 21 or over and be in receipt of the following payments for at least 3 months (78 days of unemployment) Jobseeker’s Allowance, Jobseeker’s Benefit, Farm Assist, One-Parent Family Payment, Deserted Wife’s
Allowance / Benefit, Widow’s/Widower’s Contributory or Non-Contributory pension, Prisoners’ Wife’s Allowance or Carers Allowance (under 66 years).
• Aged 18 or over and getting one of the following payments for at least 3 months; Blind Pension, Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension or Incapacity Supplement; or
• Aged between 18-20 and out of formal education for two years and getting one of the following payments for at least 3 months; Jobseeker’s Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance or One-Parent Family Payment or
• Aged 18 or over and in receipt of Illness Benefit for 2 years or more BTEA – Third Level option (TLO)
• Aged 21 or over and be in receipt of the following payments for at least 9 months (234 days): Jobseeker’s Allowance, Jobseeker’s Benefit, Farm Assist, One-Parent Family Payment, Deserted Wife’s Allowance / Benefit, Widow’s/Widower’s Contributory, Non-Contributory pension, Prisoners Wife’s Allowance or Carers Allowance
• Aged 18 or over and getting one of the following payments for at least 9
months; Blind Pension, Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension or Incapacity Supplement or

• Aged between 18 and 20 and out of formal education for two years and
getting one of the following payments for at least 9 months (234 days);
JB, JA or One-Parent Family Payment or
• Aged 18 or over and in receipt of Illness Benefit for 2 years or more Under no circumstances will the BTEA be awarded to a person who already holds a postgraduate qualification. CLICK for back to top menu

 

BTEA – Returning to the Back to Education Allowance (3rd Level only)
In general, applicants for the BTEA must be starting the first year of an approved full-time course in order to qualify for the BTEA. This condition has been relaxed to allow students who have completed their first year of a course
access to the BTEA. This only applies where the applicant fulfils the other BTEA scheme conditions and in the following circumstances only;
• A person can now avail of the BTEA where they previously did not complete their course (they may have ‘dropped out’) and are returning to the second or subsequent year of their 3rd level course
• This also applies to people who are granted an exemption from a period of their 3rd level course based on a previous course or on life experience
• Where a person completed earlier year(s) of their 3rd level course on a parttime basis but are now getting a Jobseekers payment, they may apply for BTEA to continue their course on a full-time basis

For further information on these changes to the Back to Education Allowance, visit the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection website at www.welfare.ie

CLICK for back to top menu

BTEA – Other Qualifying Periods
Periods spent on Education and Training Board (ETB), Training Courses, Youthreach, C.E., Back to Work Allowance schemes, Rural Social Scheme, TÚS, National Internship or Job Initiative may count towards the qualifying period
to qualify for the BTEA. You may access the BTEA Scheme directly from one of these schemes under certain conditions.
Periods spent in receipt of Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA), Direct Provision or periods spent in prison may count towards the qualifying period for BTEA, but you must establish an entitlement to a Social Welfare payment before you commence your course of study. If you finish one of the above mentioned schemes, and there is a break over 4 weeks between finishing the scheme and beginning an approved course of study you must establish an entitlement to a relevant qualifying Social Welfare payment in order to qualify.

CLICK for back to top menu

BTEA – How to apply for a place
• Contact the colleges directly to get information about courses. The Area Based Partnerships (see Chapter 7), the local Education and Training Board (ETB) and your LES will be willing to help you do this and can help with 
general information. In addition, they may help you with financial assistance towards the application fees.
• Contact the Student Officer at the colleges Students Union Office for information and suggestions
• Most applications are made through the Central Applications Office (CAO). Some colleges may also ask you to make a separate application to them directly. Ask if this is necessary
• The college may ask you to attend an interview to assess your knowledge of the subjects you wish to study. During this interview they might ask about your motivation and commitment to staying in college for the
duration of the course
• When you receive a letter offering you a place at college, fill out ‘Form BTE1’ available at your local Intreo Centre or download at www.welfare.ie

CLICK for back to top menu

BTEA –How to apply for a student grant
– Existing Applicants
Students who are currently in receipt of a student grant and who are progressing to the next year of the same course will continue to be assessed and paid by the existing awarding authorities.


– Changing Course/New Course
Students who are changing course or progressing to a new course, including an add-on course, will need to apply through the SUSI system, see new applicants below.


– New Applicants
All applications will be made online to a single awarding authority, SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland), through the www.susi.ie website.
Following an initial assessment of your application, if eligible, you will receive by post notification of provisional grant approval and a personalised list of the supporting documents you will need to return to complete your application. Completed documentary evidence packs (photocopies of the documents, not originals) should be returned as soon as possible in the envelope provided to you.
When you return all the necessary supporting documents SUSI will process your application to award stage, subject to confirmation of your acceptance on an approved course. When you confirm acceptance of a place on an approved course (usually late August/early September), your grant will be awarded. You should notify the fees/registration office in your college of your grant eligibility.
If you qualify for a student grant the payment will be made on a monthly basis (subject to confirmation of attendance) directly into your designated Irish bank account. If you qualify for a fee grant (i.e. student contribution, tuition fee or postgraduate fee contribution) the payment will be made directly to the approved institution.
• There are two rates of maintenance grant. The adjacent rate (if you live less than 45 kilometres from the college) and the non-adjacent rate (if you live more than 45 kilometres from the college). Detailed information on
financial supports for students can be found on the website : www.susi.ie
• New applicants who are in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance and the VTOS allowance for those pursuing PLC courses will be ineligible for student grants. The cost of the student services charge and any fees payable to colleges will continue to be met for eligible students by the Exchequer on their behalf
• For grant eligibility the student must be resident in the State for 3 of the past 5 years
• For re-entry as an independently assessed mature student the duration of the break in studies must be at least 3 years. CLICK for back to top menu

 

BTEA – Grants and Funds available for Mature Students
• If you wish to enter or return to third-level education and you are over 23 years of age, Irish third-level colleges have places on their courses for mature students. You will have to consider the costs of fees and maintenance
depending on whether you are going to do a full-time or a part-time course. If you are leaving work to study full-time on an undergraduate course you may be eligible for a third-level maintenance grant
• If you do not qualify for a student grant and you are doing a full-time undergraduate course you may be eligible for free fees. (If you are applying for an undergraduate course you are not eligible for a student grant or free fees if you have already completed an undergraduate course)
• If you are applying for a postgraduate course you may have to pay fees – maintenance grants for postgraduate courses have been removed. You will also have to pay fees if you are intending to study part-time or do a
distance learning course. If you do have to pay fees you may be able to get tax relief at the standard rate

People who are getting Back to Education Allowance and those on Post-Leaving Certificate courses who are getting VTOS allowances will not be eligible for a student grant. However, this does not affect any entitlement they may have to an exemption from college fees.

CLICK for back to top menu

Help with Fees and Maintenance
The main schemes that apply to mature students (generally persons over 23 years of age) are:
• The Student Grant Scheme, which is available to students who plan to study full time on approved third-level courses (of at least two years’ duration), including mature students
• If you are getting a Jobseekers Payment, One-Parent Family Payment or Disability Payment the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) allows you to study at second and third level without losing your benefits. You must meet
certain criteria to be eligible for the BTEA. CLICK for back to top menu

 

Postgraduate students
Student Grant Scheme:
• Postgraduate students who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant under the relevant Student Grant Scheme are eligible to have their post graduate tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit under the Student Grant Scheme.
• Since the 2017/2018 academic year the special rate of maintenance grant was re-introduced in the Student Grants Scheme for those who meet the special rate eligibility criteria.
• For postgraduate students whose income is less than €31,500, increasing relative to the number of family dependents, they may qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the cost of fees.
• Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) administers the Student Grant Scheme on behalf of the Department.
• Tax relief is also available on postgraduate tuition fees. Details in relation to this relief are available from the Revenue Commissioners at www.revenue.ie

CLICK for back to top menu

Other Funds
There are a number of other funds available to support you in your return to third-level education. Details are available at www.studentfinance.ie. These include:
— Fund for students with disabilities
The fund provides funding to higher education institutions for the provision of services and supports for full-time students with disabilities, including those pursuing postgraduate study at universities in Northern Ireland. The Fund for Students with a Disability is also available to eligible students who take part in SOLAS funded Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses.
— Students Assistance Fund
The Student Assistance Fund is for students who having commenced a third level course, experience financial hardship and, therefore, may be unable to continue their third-level studies. Applications for funding should be made by the individual student to the access/disability officer in their institution. The Fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.
— Where to Apply
• Contact the Mature Students Officer or the Admissions Officer at the college
• For the Special fund for People with Disabilities apply to the Student Counsellor or Disabilities Support Officer at the college of your choice. CLICK for back to top menu