Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne said the Back to Education Allowance should be reformed to allow those unemployed as a result of COVID-19 to access education and training ahead of the withdrawal of the pandemic employment payment.

Senator Byrne said there were many benefits to the proposal not least that it would give people who were struggling an opportunity to get back into employment. He urged all parties to consider it as part of Government Formation talks.

He commented, “We currently have a situation where half a million people are unemployed because of the public health emergency. While some of those will be able to return to work when businesses reopen, many will sadly not.

“The time is fast approaching when the pandemic unemployment payment will no longer be an option. This payment will come to an end before the wage subsidy scheme. In these circumstances, it is vital that there are real alternatives for people to both re-skill and support themselves.

“The Back to Education scheme as currently designed is in place to allow those who are currently experiencing a prolonged period of unemployment to retrain and gain new skills. This should be adjusted so that those who are in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment are immediately able access it and transition to the Back to Education allowance.

“It will help colleges increase numbers (particularly the inevitable gap left by international students not travelling) and it will give opportunity to people struggling to get back into employment.

“In the current circumstances there is simply no reason to wait months for this allowance to become available and changes should be made now,” concluded Senator Byrne.