Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Questions (234)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

234. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Social Protection further to Parliamentary Question No. 373 of 18 February 2014, the reason the person concerned was initially informed by a social protection office that they could intermit their back to education allowance payment and resume it at a later date for a semester, which led them to take a break at that time; if in view of this she will arrange for the person to be granted BTEA for this semester; the mechanisms of appeal that are open to this person; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11596/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

In August 2013 the person concerned attended her Social Welfare Local Office and was advised that she should submit her back to education allowance (BTEA) application 2 weeks before the start of her course. At no time did she state her intentions regarding the course, i.e. that she planned to partake in a single semester only. In January 2014 she submitted her application and the Deciding Officer subsequently informed her that her application could not be approved. The reason for this is that a single semester is not considered to be full-time education as set out in the operational guidelines for BTEA. This scheme is designed to support a person for study for the full academic year rather than on a modular or semester basis. Given the nature of BTEA, no provision is made to allow a person to complete an individual semester of a full-time course.

Following a comprehensive review of this case, there are no records that the person concerned was informed by any officer of the Department that she could intermit her back to education allowance payment and resume it at a later date for a semester. Only general advice regarding the application process is given by staff to applicants; confirmation is not given as to whether or not a person qualifies for BTEA. The BTEA guidelines provide that any person who is not satisfied with a decision may request in writing a review by an officer of the relevant Social Welfare Local Office enclosing new evidence in support of the review. BTEA is a non-statutory scheme and as such decisions cannot be appealed to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.