There are two programmes under which a qualifying adult may return to full-time education while continuing to receive income support. The first is the vocational training opportunities scheme which is administered by the Department of Education and Science. The second is the back to education programme, which is administered by the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs.
Both schemes are open to adults aged over 21 years and in receipt of an unemployment payment, one parent family payment, and other eligible categories, for at least six months. Participants cease to receive their social welfare payments and are instead paid an allowance at a standard rate, that is maximum rate of their current social welfare payment. The allowance includes increases for a qualified adult and child or children where applicable.
Earnings from part-time employment or summer work do not affect the basic VTOS/BTEA payment. However, all income earned by the student and/or spouse/partner is assessable for rent or mortgage supplement purposes.
There is no fee for a VTOS course and materials are provided free of charge. A training bonus of £25 per week is also paid to VTOS participants who were registered as long-term unemployed prior to starting their programme, that is 12 months. Time spent on the programme is not reckonable for this purpose.