Sunday, October 18, 2009

Back to Education Allowance scheme needs to be urgently reformed

The Back to Education Allowance is widely recognised by those who work in the sector as an important bridge for those making the transfer from welfare dependency to employment. Presently over 400,000 are on the live register and are seeking employment. As a result of failed Government policies more jobs are being lost than created. There is no doubt that proper job creation and retention policies will help turn this tide. However with the best will in the world 400,000 jobs will not be created in the next 12 months and it is going to take some time and new thinking for us to get back to full employment.

There are many people on the dole at the moment who wish to avail of education and training courses but are unable to do so. Equally there are many people on courses who are being forced to leave because of the failure of the Back to Education Allowance scheme to meet their needs. In order to qualify for the scheme you must be at least 12 months on the live register and in receipt of a social welfare payment. This is simply not working. The scale of the current unemployment crisis is so bad that it is vital that this support is extended to unemployed people much earlier. We have a crazy system at present where people are being forced to sit on the dole for 12 months and draw social welfare as a means to qualify for the back to education allowance. I know of a number of cases where people are being forced to drop out of education altogether as they fall a little short of the qualifying criteria.

We need a job creation and retention package to urgently tackle the current unemployment crisis. A major part of this has to be up-skilling and re-training. The current system is failing those currently unemployed and needs to be urgently reformed.

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