If you are over 21 years of age, unemployed and have been getting certain social welfare payments for at least 6 months you can apply for the Vocational Training and Opportunities Scheme (VTOS). The VTOS scheme provides a range of courses to meet the education and training needs of unemployed people. It gives participants opportunities to improve their general level of education, gain certification, develop their skills and prepare for employment, self-employment and further education and training. VTOS is operated through the vocational education committees (VECs) and is aimed in particular at unemployed people who are early school-leavers.
The courses range from basic education and training to advanced vocational training and there is a wide choice of subjects. The courses are full-time, about 30 hours a week (for example, 6 hours a day for 5 days) and can last up to 2 years. Many courses lead to qualifications such as the Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate and awards at Levels 3, 4, 5 and 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications. You can find a list of VTOS courses on the Qualifax website.
You may qualify for the VTOS scheme if you are aged 21 years or over and you are:
* If you are claiming Illness Benefit, you should contact your local social welfare office about exemption/entitlement to continuation of your Illness Benefit payment.
If you started VTOS before January 2013 and you are getting Jobseeker’s Assistance or Jobseeker’s Benefit, you will get a training allowance at a rate equivalent to the maximum rate of Jobseeker’s Benefit instead of your jobseeker's payment.
From January 2013, VTOS participants who move from jobseeker's payments will no longer have their new payments increased to the maximum €188 per week, in cases where their jobseeker's payment is less than this. However, people under 25 will continue to receive a top-up rate of up to €160 per week. This will apply to new participants only.
VTOS training allowances are not taxable.
If you are getting one of the other eligible social welfare payments you will get a payment equivalent to the maximum rate of your current social welfare payment. You will continue to receive it and all other payments from the Department of Social Protection.
Since 2010, people on PLC courses who are getting VTOS allowances are no longer eligible for student support grants. However, this does not affect any entitlement they may have to exemption from college fees or student contibutions.
There are no fees for VTOS courses and you will get free books and materials at the start of the course. Depending on your individual circumstances you may be eligible for the following:
More detailed information about the rates of payment for VTOS participants is on the Department of Social Protection website.
You can participate in the VTOS scheme in one of the following ways; you can be either:
There is a list
of frequently asked questions about VTOS on the Qualifax website.
Contact the VTOS co-ordinator at your local VTOS centre to find out more about the VTOS courses available.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.