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Students Brief TDs on Loss of Training Allowance

10 July 2014
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 “People in places like SOLAS and the Department of Education and Skills don’t realise the harm that they are causing with the decision to cut the €20 a week. Many students feel that they will sadly have to drop out of their training which ironically was supposed to help us in the first place.” So says Eileen Coyle, from Athlone, who was part of a group of National Learning Network students who held a briefing for TDs and Senators in Leinster House. The meeting highlighted the impact on students of the removal of a €20 allowance paid to people in SOLAS-funded training. Eileen and fellow students from National Learning Network Centres around the country travelled to Dublin for the meeting which was hosted by Paul Connaughton TD representing Galway East.

The Training Allowance Campaign Group, made up of students currently studying in National Learning Network centres around the country, gave a presentation to TDs and Senators in Leinster House on the impact of the loss of the SOLAS Training Allowance payment on their lives and on their ability to attend training. The allowance was removed in Budget 2014 for new entrants and those progressing onto further training. Students who are now ready to progress in onto further training are being affected. They argued that the removal of this payment is having a particular impact on people with disabilities and people with mental health difficulties as it leaves them worse off in training than they would be staying at home. They reiterated to the TDs and Senators present that as students they need to build new skills for employment but without the €20 training allowance they simply can’t afford to.  

Eileen who lives in Ballinaloe and studies in Athlone, was a deputy manager in TK Maxx. She had to give up work when she developed an auto immune disease known as systemic lupus. Eileen is a student on the Fresh Start course in the National Learning Network centre in Blyry Industrial Estate. She is hopeful for the future. “I have a goal to get work in community development. But in the next few weeks I have a difficult decision to come to. I really want to progress to the Employer Based Training course and fulfil my goals but without the €20 payment it will be very difficult for me financially.” 
Veronica Ryan from Athlone Town also spoke at the event. Veronica worked all her life both as a qualified machinist in factories and as a banqueting organiser in hotels. In 1998 she was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis and by 2010 she ended up in a body brace, totally dependent on her daughters to do everything for her. She says, “I felt worthless. But after two months of being in National Learning Network I began to believe that with training I would be able to return to work part-time if not full-time. With this €20 allowance that I am getting now, I am able to avail of service that are not available on my medical card, like massages for my bones, going to the swimming pool and being able to afford a good healthy diet. Doing these things has improved my health. My goal now is to get the certification I need to re-join the workforce. Regardless of whether the €20 training allowance is restored I am going to do Employer Based Training but it will impact on me.” 
The Training Allowance Campaign Group will continue their campaign over the coming weeks with a number of actions planned. 
For more information contact: Róisín Fitzgerald, National Learning Network: 086 8101291/