Thursday, 12 April 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
235. Mr. Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will substantially increase the funding for the vocational training opportunities scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11292/01]
Minister for Education and Science (Dr. Woods): The vocational training opportunities scheme, VTOS, was established in 1989 with the objective of providing second chance education and training opportunities for unemployed adults over the age of 21 and in receipt of an unemployment payment for at least six months. Participants in VTOS cease to receive unemployment payments and are paid training allowances of at least an equivalent amount. They are also paid travelling expenses, where they reside three miles from the centre and a meal allowance in line with those payable by FÁS.
About 5,000 people participate annually in VTOS at an annual cost to the State of £32 million. It has proved very successful in opening up learning and progression opportunities for people who have been marginalised by unemployment. For each of the years 1994 to 2000, the percentage of participants who completed the programme and who progressed to work or further education was 70% or more.
The Department's grant covers teaching and management costs, non-pay costs, and the payment of training, travel and meals allowances to participants. In relation to non-pay, the grant for such items as light, heat, rent, books and equipment and other general expenses is £15,000 per core group of 20 VTOS students.
A training bonus of £25 per week was introduced in September 1999 for participants who were registered as long-term unemployed prior to starting their programme, that is, 12 months, as an incentive to encourage greater participation of  the long-term unemployed in education and training programmes.
A scheme of grants for child care for VTOS students was introduced in 1998 in order to facilitate the attendance of people who would otherwise be prevented from doing so by child care responsibilities. An adult educational guidance service has been initiated on a pilot basis, and a new management structure has been developed for the programme.
 The development of VTOS features strongly in the back to education initiative, as set out in the recent White Paper on adult education, Learning for Life. Under this measure, £1.027 billion will be provided under the national development plan over the period of the plan for the development of a number of programmes, including VTOS, which will involve a significant expansion of part-time options. The resources for the programme will be examined in that context.
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