Thursday, 9 July 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
1197. Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the progress made in regard to the commitment given in the programme for Government to increase the number of places on the back to education initiative to 10,000 and expand the vocational training opportunities scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29455/09]
Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Deputy Seán Haughey): The Back to Education Initiative (BTEI) commenced in October 2002. It provides flexible, part-time options across Further Education and an opportunity to combine a return to learning with family, work and other responsibilities. It is aimed at adults with less than upper second level education, including unemployed adults.
The Programme for Government (2007-2012) provided for an increase in the number of places on the BTEI to 10,000. 1,000 additional places were allocated in 2007 and a further 500 places were allocated in 2008 bringing the total number of places to 9,500.
For 2009, difficult choices around priorities for investment had to be made to control public expenditure and to ensure sustainability in the long run. In this context, it was necessary to reduce the number of places on the BTEI by 500, returning it to the 2007 level of 9,000. This reduction should be seen in the context of the significant increase in expenditure on the BTEI in the last six years, up from €6,000,000 in 2002 to €18,750,000 in 2008.
The Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) was introduced in 1989 to encourage adults over the age of 21 and in receipt of unemployment payments to return to education and training. Over the following years, the Scheme was expanded to people in receipt of other payments, such as One-Parent Family allowances, Disability allowances and Invalidity Pension.
VTOS is a full-time second chance education and training initiative delivered and managed locally by the VECs. Its primary target group is the longer-term unemployed, the low-skilled and disadvantaged. Courses of up to two years duration and between levels 3 and 6 on the National Qualifications Framework are offered. Tuition, stationery and books are provided free of charge. A childcare grant and meal and travel allowances are also available to students and they can access the adult guidance service.
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