Friday 9 December 2016

€1.5bn education plan fails to boost work prospects for the unemployed

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

Published 03/11/2015 | 12:10

The Back To Education Allowance (BTEA) was introduced in 1998 to help unemployed people return to either second or third level education
The Back To Education Allowance (BTEA) was introduced in 1998 to help unemployed people return to either second or third level education

A second chance education scheme which has cost taxpayers almost €1.5bn has failed to improve the employment prospects of participants, according to a new study by the Economic and Social Research Institute.

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The Back To Education Allowance (BTEA) was introduced in 1998 to help unemployed people return to either second or third level education as a stepping stone to getting back into the workforce.

Over 22,700 people availed of the allowance last year at a cost of €162.5m and the scheme has cost €1.49bn since its inception.

However, a new report by the ESRI found there was no evidence that people who commenced an education programme in 2008 benefitted from improved employment outcomes up to last year.

It actually found they were less likely to have found a job compared to unemployed people who did not avail of the scheme.

BTEA participants who entered a course in September or October 2008 were found to be between 23pc and 38pc less likely to have exited unemployment by June 2012 and between 14pc and 29pc less likely than at the same time in 2014.

The report raises serious question marks over the Government’s oversight of the scheme.

Spending on it trebled between 2007 and 2012, increasing from €64.1m to €199.5m per annum. In the same period, the numbers using it quadrupled from around 6,000 to almost 25,000.

The report’s lead author, Dr Elish Kelly, said the evidence presented “raises concerns about the effectiveness of the BTEA scheme as an employment support programme for assisting jobseekers to transition from unemployment to employment.”

She said: “While there is some evidence that the BTEA scheme was successful in redirecting participants to further study or training, the programme does not appear to be effective in terms of its core public policy objective of assisting the unemployed to transition to employment.”

The report was commissioned by the Department of Social Protection.

Tanaiste and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said six recommendations made in the report were already being implemented by her department.

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