Back to Education Allowance

Back to Education Allowance (BTEA)

1: Information

Please note the information here is for demonstration purposes only – please check with your local Social Welfare Office or Citizens Information Centre to verify all details:

If you are unemployed, getting a One-Parent Family Payment or have a disability, you may attend a second-or third-level education course and get the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA). The weekly Allowance is paid at a standard rate and is not means-tested. However, the increase you get for a qualified adult may be means-tested if your spouse/partner has earnings.

Budget 2013

The Cost of Education Allowance (previously €300) has been discontinued. The weekly rate payable to new Back to Education Allowance participants will be equal to their previous social protection payment. (1 January 2013)
A standard maximum rate of €160 per week will apply to new Back to Education Allowance participants who were previously getting an age-related reduced rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance. (1 January 2013)
Note: The weekly rate paid to participants on the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS), Youthreach and FÁS further education and training programmes who move from jobseeker’s payments will also be matched to their previous social welfare payment. However, people under 25 who were getting an age-related reduced rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance will get a standard maximum rate of €160 per week.

Keeping your secondary benefits

If you qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you will keep an entitlement to any secondary benefits you already have, for example, Christmas Bonus, Fuel Allowance, Rent Supplement and Mortgage Interest Supplement. However, any increase in income may affect your entitlement to Rent/Mortgage Interest Supplement or the amount of supplement you get. For example, this can happen if you move from a reduced social welfare payment to the standard BTEA rate.

Student Grants

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.
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 (formerly called the student services charge), field trip costs and tuition fees (if payable).
If you are getting a One Parent Family Payment or a disability payment (Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension or Illness Benefit) you can choose to stay on your current social welfare payment and apply for a student grant or you can choose to transfer to the BTEA.

If you are getting one of the social welfare payments listed below, you can choose to stay on your current social welfare payment and apply for a maintenance grant or transfer to the BTEA. However, this may affect your entitlement to other payments you are receiving e.g. Rent Allowance. You can find out whether BTEA is the best option for you.

  • One-Parent Family Payment
  • Disability Allowance
  • Invalidity Pension
  • Illness Benefit
Spouse, civil partner or cohabitant can qualify for BTEA

You may qualify for BTEA if you are not getting a social welfare payment but your spouse/civil partner/cohabitant is getting an Increase for a Qualified Adult in their social welfare payment for you. To qualify your spouse/civil partner/cohabitant must have an entitlement to BTEA and be getting an Increase for a Qualified Adult in his/her social welfare payment for you as an adult dependant for the required amount of time – see ‘Rules’ below.

If you qualify for BTEA because you are an adult dependant, you will get the same social welfare payment as your spouse/civil partner/cohabitant but at the maximum standard personal rate. Your spouse/civil partner/cohabitant will keep his/her entitlement to his/her personal rate of payment. You will also qualify for the annual Cost of Education Allowance.

If you get the Back to Education Allowance your spouse/civil partner/cohabitant can still keep his/her entitlement to the BTEA.

Back to Education Allowance Rules

2: Rules

To qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you must be at least 21 years of age (24 years of age for a third-level postgraduate course).
For exceptions to the age limit – see below.

If you wish to attend a second level course you must be getting one of the social welfare payments listed below for at least 3 months (78 days of unemployment*) immediately before you start the course.

If you wish to attend a third level course you must be getting one of the social welfare payments listed below for 9 months (234 days of unemployment*) immediately before you start the course.

*If you are getting a jobseeker’s payment, each day you are unemployed, except Sunday, is counted as a day of unemployment.

Qualifying social welfare payments are:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance or Jobseeker’s Benefit
  • Farm Assist
  • One-Parent Family Payment
  • Deserted Wife’s Benefit/Allowance
  • Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Contributory) Pension
  • Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Non-Contributory) Pension
  • Prisoners Wife’s Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance

If you are getting Illness Benefit for 2 years or more you can also qualify for the Allowance.

Time spent on BTEA, VTOS, FÁS training courses, Fáilte Ireland Training course, Community Employment schemes, FIT, Rural Social Scheme, Back to Work Allowance, Back to Work Enterprise Allowance, Short Term Enterprise Allowance, FÁS Job Initiative, Revenue Job Assist, Supplementary Welfare Allowance, in prison or in Direct Provision can count towards the qualifying period.

You may go directly from one of the above schemes to Back to Education Allowance provided you were getting one of the qualifying social welfare payments listed above before you started the scheme. You must start your approved course of study within four weeks of leaving the scheme. Otherwise you must be getting a qualifying social welfare payment immediately before starting an approved course of study.

Redundancy

If you are awarded statutory redundancy under Irish legislation, you can have immediate access to the BTEA. To qualify you must:

  • Take part in the BTEA scheme within one year of getting statutory redundancy

Be entitled to a qualifying social welfare payment before starting your course – see list above

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 (see ‘Rules’ above), you may qualify to participate in the BTEA scheme. You will not get a weekly Back to Education Allowance, but you can get the Cost of Education Allowance. This is a once off payment at the beginning of each academic year. You will continue to be awarded credited contributions while you are taking part in the BTEA scheme.

Exceptions to the age limit

To qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, you must be at least 21 years of age (24 years of age for a third-level postgraduate course).

However, if you are getting Jobseeker’s Allowance, Jobseeker’s Benefit or One-Parent Family Payment for the required period of time and aged between 18 and 20 and you have been out of the formal education system for at least 2 years you may qualify for Back to Education Allowance.

If you are aged 18 or over and getting Blind Pension, Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension or Incapacity Supplement for the required period of time you may qualify for the Allowance. The Allowance has also been extended to people with disabilities who have left Community Employment schemes and who, when beginning the scheme, were not getting a qualifying social welfare payment. In this case, you must begin the course within 4 weeks of finishing the scheme.

Back to Education Allowance How to Apply

3: 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 Social Welfare Local Office.

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 or the Cost of Education Allowance until you give this confirmation letter to the Department of Social Protection.

If you are not fully registered because your college is awaiting payment of the student services charge (also known as the registration fee) from your local authority or Cork ETB, you must get a letter from the college explaining this so that you can get paid BTEA.

You must apply for BTEA before starting an approved course. A late application will be accepted if there is a good reason for it being late and it is received by the relevant section in the Department 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.

Where to Apply

4: Where to apply

If you are getting a jobseeker’s payment, you should return your application form to your Social Welfare Local Office.

If you are getting Illness Benefit contact:
Back to Education Section, Department of Social Protection, Social Welfare Services Office, Government Buildings
Shannon Lodge, Carrick-on-Shannon, Leitrim, Ireland

Tel: (071) 967 2616 Locall:1890 927 999

Homepage: http://www.welfare.ie

Visit www.studentfinance.ie for information on the different forms of student support.