Dundalk Institute of Technology have joined an initiative to provide a third-level scholarship fund for people with criminal convictions to access higher education.
The KickStart Scholarship Fund was established by the Irish Probation Service and is supported by the Irish Prison Service.
The probation service has provided €100,000 in funding for the coming academic year, with the scholarship funding the applicant's full course of study.
The scheme’s development is being led by Maynooth University, working in partnership with DCU, Dundalk IT, and TU Shannon Midlands Midwest, Athlone Campus.
The scheme is open to new undergraduates who have applied to begin third-level education in September this year, as well as those who are currently third-level students, in one of the four MEND Higher Education Institutions, which includes DkIT.
Eight scholarships are available in total - two for each MEND Higher Education Institutions this coming year.
DkIT has two scholarships available, which consist of one €5,000 per year scholarship for undergraduate study to a maximum of €20,000 over four years, or six years for a part-time course, and the other scholarship available is for €1,250 for each year of undergraduate study to a maximum of €5,000 over four years for a full-time course.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the new initiative was about giving people "a second chance".
"We know how powerful education can be in terms of unlocking potential, building confidence and breaking down barriers and this new initiative is about ensuring equality of opportunity for those who may have made mistakes in the past but want to build a better life," she said.
Sheila Flanagan, Vice President for Academic Affairs & Registrar, DkIT Added:
“Many prisoners survive incarceration only to come home to face even more barriers to success—perpetuating the cycle of poverty in our region. A huge factor in the high rates of reoffending is that we fail to create paths and platforms for these people. I very much welcome the KickStart programme which will help address these issues of poverty and reoffending but also enable the Institute to help provide a tailored response to people previously involved in crime and support them to create a better life.2
The KickStart programme builds on what is referenced in the 2021 Geiran Report (Drogheda: Creating a Bridge to a Better Future) as the growing positive research regarding ‘what works’ in reducing reoffending. Such targeted intervention through KickStart will allow us in the MEND region leverage the benefits of education in a cross agency co-ordinated approach to ensure that the perpetuating cycle of crime and poverty is broken.”