Back to Education Allowance
The Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) is available to people who have been receiving certain social welfare payments for specified periods of time. You must be on a payment for the last three months if you wish to pursue a second level course and nine months for third level courses. Time spent on Jobseeker’s Allowance, One Parent Family Payment, Jobseeker’s Transition, Carer’s Allowance, Widow’s Pension or Disability Allowance can count towards this qualifying period.
Time spent in Direct Provision or on other social welfare payments or schemes may also help you to qualify. You can check with the Department of Social Protection if you are not sure.
This time requirement has been waived for recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Payment. However, if you are getting PUP and wish to apply for Back to Education Allowance, you must first transfer to a Jobseeker’s payment (or other qualifying payment).
To avail of BTEA you must be at least 21 years of age or 24 for third level post-graduate course .
If you are aged between 18 and 20 and have been receiving One Parent Family Payment for the required period of time and been out of education for 2 years then you may also qualify.
Likewise, if in receipt of Disability Allowance and aged 18 or over and receiving the payment for the required length of time then you will also qualify for the Back to Education Allowance.
If you qualify you may also keep your entitlement to secondary benefits such as the Fuel Allowance, Rent Supplement or Housing assistance Payment but any increase in income could affect your entitlement, such as earnings from part work while you study.
Your choice of course must be full-time to be considered for the BTEA. At second level education it must be recognised by the Dept. of Education or Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) or City and Guilds. At third level it must be recognised by the Dept. of Education for Higher Education Grant purposes, ETB scholarship scheme, Third Level Maintenance Grant Scheme for trainees or HETAC.
If you already have an undergraduate degree, then only Higher Diploma courses or Graduate Diploma in Education (NFQ Level 8) can be followed under Back to Education Allowance.
If you are getting One-Parent Family Payment, Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension or Illness Benefit, you will need to consider whether it is more beneficial for you to apply for the BTEA when you go back to education or to remain on your current payment and apply for a student grant.
If you are receiving Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance, you must apply for and receive the BTEA if you wish to keep a social welfare payment when you go back to education.
If you receive the BTEA then you cannot also receive the maintenance grant portion of the Student Grant Scheme, but you will still need to apply for the scheme for the fees grant, which covers the Student Contribution fee and tuition fees. When you are accepted on a course, then complete the application for the Back to Education Allowance and return it to the same section that makes your current payment.
If you are receiving the Jobseeker’s Transitional payment, you can stay on this payment while in full time education and also apply for both the student maintenance grant and fees grant. However, if you are also living in private rented accommodation and receiving Rent Supplement, you cannot engage in full time education and continue to receive this payment unless you apply for and receive the Back to Education Allowance. Your housing type may also impact on your decision if you are getting a One-Parent Family Payment, especially if you are living in private rented accommodation and are in receipt of Rent Supplement.