Dáil Éireann - Volume 653 - 08 May, 2008
Written Answers. - Education Schemes.
Deputy Ruairí Quinn Deputy Ruairí Quinn
Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will confirm that he has read a policy proposal (details supplied); his views on whether the present system creates poverty traps or financial barriers for people who wish to avail of the back to education allowance as soon as they stop working; if he will raise this matter with the Department of Finance and Department of Social and Family Affairs with a view to dealing with this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17923/08]
Deputy Batt O’Keeffe Deputy Batt O’Keeffe
Deputy Batt O’Keeffe: My Department is aware of the document referred to by the Deputy.
Eligibility for the Back to Education Allowance and associated payments is determined and administered by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.
 The Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) is a second chance education opportunities scheme designed to encourage and facilitate people on certain social welfare payments to improve their skills and qualifications and, therefore, their prospects of returning to the work force. To qualify for participation in the BTEA scheme, an applicant must be, inter alia, in receipt of a relevant social welfare payment for at least six months in the case of people wishing to complete a second-level course, or twelve months in the case of people wishing to pursue third-level qualifications. However, there is provision under the scheme for persons awarded statutory redundancy to access the BTEA scheme provided an entitlement to a relevant social welfare payment is established prior to commencing an approved course of study.
The BTEA scheme was established to assist people who have been out of the workforce for some time and whose opportunities of obtaining employment would be enhanced by participation in the scheme. I understand that the requirement to be in receipt of a relevant social welfare payment for a minimum period has always been a feature of the scheme and this eligibility criterion is necessary to ensure that limited resources are directed towards those most in need.
People who are already in employment are not considered to be in the target group for the BTEA scheme.
Students who qualify for the standard rate of maintenance grant under each of my Department’s four maintenance grant schemes may, under certain circumstances, qualify for the special rate of maintenance grant. In order to qualify for the special rate, a candidate must meet a number of conditions, including the following:
1. An applicant must qualify for the ordinary maintenance grant;
2. Total reckonable income in the relevant tax year must not exceed the lower income limits as set out in the relevant maintenance grant schemes and, where applicable, net of Child Dependent Increase payments;
3. As at the prescribed date, i.e., 31st December each year, the source of income must include one of the eligible long-term Social Welfare payments.
The prescribed income limit for the special rate of maintenance grant for the academic year 2007/2008 is €18,055.
The Deputy will be aware that I have recently published the Student Support Bill 2008. This Bill will provide a statutory framework for reforming the administration of student grants and a coherent basis for a new single unified scheme of student maintenance grants. My Department, in consultation with the key stakeholders, will consider all criteria regarding eligibility for maintenance grants, including the special rates of maintenance grant, in the course of the development of regulations governing a single unified grants scheme, as provided for in the Student Support Bill.
Dáil Éireann 653 Written Answers. Education Schemes.