Unemployed people who take part in the Government-sponsored Back to Education scheme are far less likely to have found a job four years later when compared to other jobseekers, according to an ESRI report published today.

The Government-commissioned evaluation has found that unemployed people who availed of the Back to Education Allowance were in some cases up to 38% less likely to have found work four years later.

The Back to Education Allowance was set up in 1998 to encourage jobseekers, lone parents and people with disabilities to undertake full-time education with the aim of securing a job. 

The scheme allows people to keep their jobseeker payment while they study.

In recent years between 21,000 and 24,000 people have availed of the scheme annually, costing the State up to €200m per year.

But the report finds no evidence that the scheme has helped participants to find a job.

Those who began their studies in 2008 for example were between 23% and 38% less likely to have a job four years later compared to other jobseekers.

However, the study has not analysed why this should be the case.

The Department of Social Protection is now commissioning another evaluation to try to find out.

The report also found evidence that the BTEA scheme may not be monitored properly.

Participants are only allowed to study a course that progresses their educational level.

However, the ESRI study found evidence of students moving from one Post Leaving Cert course to another at the same level.
 
The report said the scheme may be "locking individuals into education programmes for prolonged periods with relatively little improvement to their ultimate employability". 
 
The ESRI has acknowledged that the scope of its study was limited to examining statistical data. 
 
It says it cannot draw conclusions as to the quality or impact of education programmes on individuals.
 
The study has not measured factors such as the impact of a lack of additional supports for participants, or things like childcare difficulties or access to transport.
 
It says information like this is needed for a more comprehensive understanding.