If you are unemployed, parenting alone or have a disability and are getting certain payments from the department, you may take part in a second-or third-level education course in Ireland or Northern Ireland and get a Back to Education Allowance.
Since 2016/17, Back to Education Allowance is only paid for courses that start in Ireland or in Northern Ireland. However, you can be paid Back to Education Allowance for a year abroad (for example, under the Erasmus+ Program) if the year is an integral or mandatory part of your course. This must be verified by the registrar or admissions office of your college.
How to qualify
You must be at least 21 years of age to get Back to Education Allowance (24 if applying for a postgraduate course).
If attending a second-level course, you must have been on one of the below for 3 months or more.
In the case of a One-Parent Family Payment client the applicant must be aged at least 18 years.
If attending a third-level course, you must have been getting one of the below payments for 9 months or more:
Jobseeker's Allowance or Jobseeker's Benefit
Jobseeker's Transitional Payment
One-Parent Family Payment
Deserted Wife's Benefit or Allowance
Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension
Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Non-Contributory) Pension
Prisoner's Wife's Allowance
Incapacity Supplement (based on a life Disablement Pension)
You do not have to have been getting your qualifying payment continuously. You can have a break of up to 12 months from the payment but you must be on the payment immediately before starting the course.
Time spent on Youthreach can count towards the qualifying period if you can establish an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment before or after completing the Youthreach programme.
Time spent in prison in the Irish State can count towards the qualifying period provided you establish an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment.
Time spent on Supplementary Welfare Allowance (SWA) or on direct provision can count towards the qualifying period for Back to Education Allowance. This only applies if you can establish an entitlement to a qualifying social welfare payment immediately before you start your course of study and satisfy the linking rules.
If you have been awarded statutory redundancy and are entitled to a qualifying social welfare payment immediately before you start the course, you can get immediate access to Back to Education Allowance without any waiting period. You must take part in the Back to Education Allowance scheme within one year of getting statutory redundancy and satisfy all the other conditions.
If you qualify, you can keep any extra benefits you already have, such as Fuel Allowance or Rent Supplement.
Rate of payment
The rate of payment is the same as the benefit you were getting before receiving Back to Education Allowance. If you were receiving Jobseeker's Benefit, then you will receive the same amount under Back to Education Allowance.
If you have a dependent child, you can get an annual Cost of Education Allowance of €500.