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.

You have two options in this instance, and you need to work out which will be more beneficial for you financially:

  1. You can stay on your One-Parent Family Payment and apply for a student grant. If you choose this option, you will continue to get your One-Parent Family Payment at your current rate and may qualify for the student grant. However, you will lose any secondary benefits you are getting such as Rent Supplement or Mortgage Interest Supplement. If you are nearing the end of your entitlement to One-Parent Family Payment, the BTEA may be of greater benefit to you because it is paid for the duration of your course.
  2. You can transfer from your One-Parent Family Payment to the BTEA. If you choose this and you qualify for BTEA, you will not get the maintenance part of the student grant, but you must still apply to be assessed for the fee component of the student grant, covering the student contribution and tuition fees, if applicable.

Your rate of payment on BTEA will be the same as the rate of One-Parent Family Payment you were getting and you can keep any secondary benefits you may be getting, including Rent Supplement. Income from paid, part time employment while you are studying will affect your BTEA, as your income from work will be means tested in the same way as your qualifying payment i.e. for One Parent Family Payment and the Jobseeker’s transitional payment the first €165 of income from work is disregarded. Income from work will also be means tested for secondary benefits such as Rent Supplement.