Dáil Éireann - Volume 632 - 01 March, 2007
Written Answers. - Adult Education.
Mr. McGinley Mr. McGinley
Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the education and training programmes currently available through his Department to carers who wish to return to the workforce; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7975/07]
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan: The Carers allowance is essentially designed for full-time carers. Carers are allowed to work or attend a course of study for up to 15 hours per week, in recognition of the economic and therapeutic values of work and courses of study, while still safeguarding the needs of the care recipient.
My Department administers a range of back to education programmes, under the umbrella of its social and family support services, to encourage and facilitate persons in receipt of certain social welfare payments, including recipients of carers allowance, to return to full–time work through the acquisition and improvement of skills and academic qualifications which will enable them to compete more successfully for employment.
Programmes range from basic literacy courses through to certain postgraduate university courses, and include the back to education allowance scheme, which covers full-time second and third level courses.
The back to education allowance scheme is available to persons in receipt of carers allowance in circumstances where the carer is ceasing caring responsibilities on a temporary or permanent basis.
The back to education allowance is essentially a social welfare replacement income which is paid at a standard weekly rate equivalent to the maximum rate of the relevant social welfare payment that qualifies the applicant for participation  in the scheme. The scheme itself is not means tested and, consequently, former carers can take up part-time employment during the academic year and full-time employment during the summer period without affecting their payment. In addition, participants receive a cost of education allowance of €400 which is payable at the beginning of each academic year. Participants also retain entitlement to any secondary benefits they had while in receipt of the relevant social welfare payment that qualified them for participation in the scheme.
The range of back to education programmes operated by my Department take cognisance of the fact that the more structured full-time second or third level courses of study such as those that are approved under the back to education allowance scheme may not suit persons who have been out of the education system for some time.
In recognition of this, in the recent budget, I extended the €32 weekly out of pocket expenses payment to persons in receipt of a carer’s allowance who agree to attend specified short-term courses of education, training or development that are organised by my Department’s facilitators. A broad range of courses may be pursued, including personal development courses, basic education e.g. literacy and numeracy classes, general training courses and the acquisition of specific job skills. The out of pocket expenses is a payment towards costs such as meal and travel costs, that persons may incur as a result of participation in one of these courses.
I am satisfied, overall, with my Department’s back to education programmes of support to those, including carers, who are seeking return to the labour market. The programmes are kept under regular review to ensure that they continue to support those who are most in need.
Dáil Éireann 632 Written Answers. Adult Education.