Fianna Fáil TD for Carlow - Kilkenny Bobby Aylward says changes to the Back to Education Allowance Scheme are severely impacting on students who are already under significant financial pressure.
From the 2016 / 2017 academic year, Back to Education Allowance participants who earn extra pocket money from part-time work will be assessed in accordance with their primary payment. Deputy Aylward has warned that this could result in significant deductions for many students.
“The introduction of new criteria by the Government means that any money earned by students, commencing third level in the 2016/17 term, will essentially be deducted from their weekly Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) payment.
“The majority of students availing of BTEA claimed Jobseekers Allowance before returning to college. As a result, earnings and other forms of income are now assessed against their BTEA rate as means which in turn, reduces their weekly payment.
“The Government has completely sold students down the river by taking away their ability to earn pocket money and pay for day to day college expenses. Most students are starting college completely unaware of these changes as there has been no meaningful engagement or communication from the Government with the thousands of young people impacted by these changes.
"Part-time work represents a crucial source of funding for financially pressed. Students who engage in paid work placement's will also be subject to the new rules and subject to a potential deduction or cut to their BTEA. This is simply inexcusable.
"These changes create yet another barrier for young people who wish to upskill and pursue a career. For many, a return to education would not even be possible without the support of such payment.
“On the Minister Burton has committed to addressing educational disadvantages and improving outcomes for students. Meanwhile his cabinet colleague Minister Varadkar presides over the implementation of new rules that will disincentives a return to education for thousands of young people. This short sighted decision must be reversed as a matter urgency," concluded Deputy Aylward.