Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

802 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will reconsider the decision to deny the back to education allowance to a person (details supplied) in County Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20624/00]

As part of its employment support services, my Department provides a wide range of second chance education opportunities for unemployed people, lone parents and people with disabilities.

The back to education allowance scheme was introduced to enable unemployed people to gain a third level qualification in order to help them to meet the requirements of the modern labour market. During the academic year 1995-96 the scheme was extended to cover postgraduate courses of study.
The intention of the scheme is to direct assistance towards those who are most at risk from long-term unemployment by affording them the opportunity to acquire an educational qualification which would enhance their employment prospects.
The person concerned applied for participation in back to education allowance scheme in order to pursue a three year Ph.D. course. She already has a masters degree obtained while participating in the back to education allowance scheme during the 1998-99 academic year. Her application was disallowed on the grounds that she has already achieved a post graduate qualification with the help of the scheme. Having regard to the objectives of the scheme it is considered that any further course of education in this case would have to be pursued outside of the scheme.