Written Answers. - Employment Support Services.

Dick Spring

Ceist:

405 Mr. Spring asked the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs if he will make an allowance available to women studying for the National Council for Vocational Awards qualifications. [27863/01]

The Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs administers a range of back to education programmes through its employment support services. These programmes are designed to encourage and facilitate unemployed people, lone parents and people with disabilities to build up skills and qualifications which will enable them to compete in the workplace.

The back to education allowance is an educational opportunities scheme for persons in receipt of certain social welfare payments who wish to pursue approved second or third level courses of education.

To qualify for participation an unemployed person must,inter alia, be pursuing a course of study at a recognised second or third level institution. The course must be a full-time day course of study which is approved by the Department of Education and Science for higher education grant purposes or have Higher Education and Training Awards Council, HETAC, recognition.

Similarly, second level courses must be full-time and lead to a certificate that is recognised by the Department of Education and Science or have Further Education and Training Awards Council recognition.

In June 2001 the Further Education and Training Awards Council became the legal successor to the National Council for Vocational Awards. Second level courses of education that are validated by FETAC are recognised for back to education allowance purposes.