Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Questions (70)

Joan Burton


70. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 5 of 15 May 2018, and with regard to the February guidelines published by the Department of Justice and Equality for access to the labour market for international protection applicants, if his attention has been drawn to the confusion in the further education and training sector as to whether asylum seekers have unlimited access to programmes in the sector or specific programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22305/18]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

Within the further education and training sector, access to English for Speakers of Other Languages and adult literacy provision is available for asylum seekers with priority given to those in need of basic English language skills to a level of functional competency.

Asylum seekers (international protection applicants) did not have access to the labour market and as a result ESOL and adult literacy provision were the only programmes within the further education and training sector to which asylum seekers had access.

However, arising from a Supreme Court decision last year, whereby section 16 (3) of the International Protection Act, was struck down with effect from 9 February, the decision was taken by Government to opt-in to the EU (recast) Receptions Conditions Directive (2013/22/EU) which sets out standards for the reception of applicants for international protection.

Arising from the fact that the opt-in process would take a number of months, temporary interim arrangements were set out by the Department of Justice and Equality.

The Department of Education and Skills has been working with the Department of Justice and Equality and other Government Departments to support both the interim arrangements and also to plan arrangements following the completion of the opt-in process.

As a result, the decision was taken by the Department of Education and Skills that during the interim period, in addition to ESOL and adult literacy provision, eligible applicants would also have access to the following further education and training programmes:

- Blended Learning

- Bridging and Foundation Training

- Community Training Centres

- Local Training Initiatives

- Specialist Training Programmes

- Specific Skills Training

- Traineeship

- Youthreach

- Back to Education Initiative (BTEI)

- Community Education.

Asylum seekers can now also access mainstream post-school vocational education via the Post Leaving Certificate Programme. Similar to access to Higher Education provision, this requires payment of the international fee, except where applicants meet the conditions of a pilot support scheme, having completed a substantial part of their schooling in Ireland.

Eligibility to participate on these programmes is based on the temporary interim measures outlined by the Department of Justice and Equality on access to the labour market. This means that applicants must produce evidence that their right to work has been acknowledged through the administrative scheme put in place by that Department or through the granting of a work permit by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

These arrangements were communicated to Education and Training Boards by SOLAS on 12 February.