Over the past few years, I have introduced a number of "second chance" education schemes on a pilot basis, both at second level and at third level, which give long term unemployed people and lone parents the opportunity to improve their academic qualifications and thereby enhance their prospects of returning to the workforce. Participants in those schemes who are unemployed, receive a weekly allowance equivalent to their unemployment payments as well as any social welfare secondary benefits they were entitled to, including rent supplements under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme.
I introduced the third level allowance Scheme in July 1990 and participation levels have increased every year. Over 900 people are expected to participate in the current 1994-95 academic year.
Currently, the allowance is not available to people pursuing post-graduate studies except the Higher Diploma in Education as this qualification is necessary to enable certain people to obtain employment from existing qualifications e.g. certain part-time teachers can secure full time posts and so end their dependance on my Department during periods they are not employed.
In the context of the ongoing review of these schemes, the situation of other people who require a post-graduate qualification to obtain employment will be further examined.