The back to education allowance scheme (BTEA), operated by my Department, provides people with a second chance education that will improve their prospects of securing employment. It enables eligible people to pursue approved education courses and to continue to receive income support for the duration of a course of study, subject to meeting certain conditions. There are currently 8,570 students supported through BTEA.
The BTEA is not intended to provide a basis for a long-duration participation in extended education and it mirrors the approach to general education grants such as the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).
This approach is informed by research evidence. Evidence from econometric studies shows that the 'lock-in' effect of long duration return to education programmes can exceed the 'progression effect' and reduce employment prospects.
In limited cases, post-graduate courses can be supported via BTEA, in particular in circumstances where a postgraduate qualification is a pre-requisite to take up employment. For example, BTEA can be approved where the jobseeker intends to undertake studies leading to a Higher Diploma (H.Dip) in any discipline, the Professional Masters in Education or a Masters degree based solely on life experience where the applicant holds no other third level qualification.
The Professional Masters in Adult and Community Education is not one of the courses covered under the BTEA as it is not a pre-requisite for employment in adult education services nor, according to our information, does it serve as an alternative to the Professional Masters in Education required for a general teaching role.
If there is a particular case that the Deputy has a concern about, then my officials would be happy to examine it.
I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.