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Adult Education.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 3 May 2006

Wednesday, 3 May 2006

Ceisteanna (455)

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Ceist:

514 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Education and Science the assistance currently available to adults seeking to return to full time education and the related thresholds. [16505/06]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Education and Science)

Participation is generally free on full-time further and higher-level recognised certified education courses, up to and including under-graduate level. Means-tested maintenance grants are available to Higher Education and PLC students.

Eligible students in receipt of social welfare payments receive a Back to Education Allowance from the Department of Social and Family Affairs, in lieu of a social welfare entitlement, while on full-time second or third-level programmes. This allowance is equivalent to the maximum of unemployment benefit. Students are also paid a cost of education allowance of €400 per annum.

The main objective of VTOS is to give unemployed people education and training opportunities which will develop their employability. The scheme is confined to adults over 21 who are in receipt of unemployment assistance/ benefit, a one parent family payment, disability allowance/benefit or signing for credits. One must be in receipt of one of these allowances for at least six months in order to join VTOS. Dependent spouses of people in these categories are also eligible.

VTOS students who had a prior entitlement to an unemployment payment receive a training allowance in lieu of this payment. This allowance is equivalent to the maximum of unemployment benefit. Students who were at least 12 months in receipt of a social welfare payment prior to joining VTOS receive a weekly training bonus of €31.80.

Youthreach provides two years integrated education, training and work experience to young people aged 15-20 years who are at least six months in the labour market and who have left school early without any qualifications or vocational training. The programme provides a strong emphasis on personal development, on the core skills of literacy/numeracy, communications and IT.

A training allowance is payable to Youthreach participants at different rates, depending on age. The rate of training allowance for trainees aged 18 and over is linked to the maximum unemployment payment under the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs for an adult. An additional training bonus of €31.80 per week may be payable in certain circumstances.

A similar programme in a culturally supportive environment is operated for Travellers, aged 15 years +, in a network of Senior Traveller Training Centres. There is no upper age limit in the Senior Traveller Centres in order to encourage parents to participate, given the influence this exerts on their children's participation in school.

Post-Leaving Certificate programmes are also available to adults, as are full time third-level courses. For these two options, tuition fees are free and there are means tested maintenance grants available. Rates and thresholds are given in the table.

A guidance service that is aimed at participants in VTOS, literacy, community education and other adult education programmes is available free of charge in most areas throughout the country.

Students on Youthreach, Senior Traveller Training and VTOS programmes, which are administered by VECs with funding from my Department, may also receive assistance towards childcare expenses to encourage them to go back to further education.

My Department funds three means-tested maintenance grant schemes for third-level students. The Higher Education Grants Scheme operates on a statutory basis, while the Vocational Education Committees' Scholarship Scheme and the Third-Level Maintenance Grants Scheme for Trainees operate on an administrative basis. The statutory framework for maintenance grants under the Higher Education Grants scheme is set out in the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts, 1968 to 1992.

The Deputy will be aware that in accordance with the commitment in An Agreed Programme for Government I plan to introduce a single unified scheme of maintenance grants for students in higher education. This will, I believe, provide for a more coherent administration system which will facilitate consistency of application and improved client accessibility and ensure the timely delivery of grants to those who need them most.

The current income limits and grant rates are outlined in the tables for the information of the Deputy.

Higher Education Grants Scheme 2005.

Reckonable Income Limits for the ordinary rates of grant† (for the period 1st January, 2004 to 31st December 2004

(the tax year 2004))

Number of Dependent Children

Full Maintenance and Full Fees

Part Maintenance (75%) and Full Fees

Part Maintenance (50%) and Full Fees

Part Maintenance (25%) and Full Fees

Part Tuition Fees (50%) only*

Less than 4

35,485

37,695

39,915

42,130

44,350

4-7

38,990

41,430

43,865

46,305

48,740

8 or more

42,335

44,980

47,625

50,265

52,910

*Full Student Service Charge is paid where income is at or below this level.

†In the 2005/06 academic year where 2 or more children (or the candidate's parent) are pursuing a course of study listed below the reckonable income limits may be increased by €4,295 where there are 2 such children, €8,590 where there are 3 such children and so on, by increments of €4,295.

(i)attending full-time third level education

(ii)attending a recognised PLC course, student nurse training or student Garda training

(iii)participating in a Fáilte Ireland (formerly CERT) course of at least one year's duration

(iv)attending a full time Teagasc course in an agricultural college

(v)attending a recognised full-time further education course, of at least one year's duration, in Northern Ireland

Maintenance Grants Rates

Non-Adjacent Rate

Adjacent Rate

Full Maintenance

3,020

1,210

Part Maintenance (75%)

2,265

905

Part Maintenance (50%)

1,515

605

Part Maintenance (25%)

755

305

Special Rates of Maintenance Grant for 2005/06

Grant

Standard Grant

Top-Up Amount

Total Grant

Adjacent Rate

1,210

935

2,145

Non-Adjacent Rate

3,020

2,335

5,355

Question No. 515 answered with QuestionNo. 504.
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