Written Answers. - VTOS Schemes.

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

382 Mr. Haughey asked the Minister for Education whether 10 per cent of vocational training opportunities schemes places in vocational education committee run school must be reserved for special category groups, such as those in receipt of a lone parents allowance or a disabled persons maintenance allowance; if so, if he will list the groups involved; if he will consider abolishing this 10 per cent quota in view of the number of applications from these groups, all of which cannot be facilitated, and given that some schools have difficulty filling their places; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16588/96]

The vocational training opportunities scheme, which is operated through the vocational education committees, was established in 1989 to cater for long-term unemployed people. It was on this basis that EU structural fund support was obtained.

The scheme was broadened in 1993 to include (i) lone parents, (ii) disabled people in receipt of invalidity and disability pensions who are considered by the vocational education committees to be financially disadvantaged, (iii) spouses of eligible disabled people in respect of whom adult dependant allowances are paid, and (iv) spouses of eligible unemployed people for whom dependant means-tested allowances are paid. People in these categories may not fill more than 10 per cent of the number of VTOS places allocated to any vocational education committee.
A vocational education committee is allowed to adopt a flexible approach to the filling of places in individual schools in its area provided that not more than 10 per cent of its overall allocation of places are filled by the additional categories.
The main aim of the VTOS is to provide a second-chance education opportunity for long-term unemployed persons who have demonstrated through the signing-on process that they are unemployed and seeking employment.
Because of the focus of VTOS on employment, my Department is not in a position to abolish or raise the 10 per cent quota in order to accommodate more lone parents or disabled people even where schools fail to fill the number of VTOS places allocated to them.
The position regarding eligibility for the scheme is kept under continual review.