Why not education? The necessity for welfare to education programmes to alleviate the social exclusion of welfare recipients in Ireland
journal contributionposted on 2014-05-02, 13:34 authored by Martin J. Power
In this paper I offer a critical appraisal of the value of welfare to education programmes in alleviating the social exclusion of welfare recipients in Ireland. Education is located as a key resource to be utilised in the fight against social exclusion. The paper suggests the function of education with regards to social inclusion is to promote relative social mobility. It is noted that in modern capitalist societies educational credentials are a key determinant of ones social class. Consequently education has a dual role in improving the individual's class position and additionally in potentially reducing the gap between those at the top of the hierarchy of economic power and those at the bottom. The paper takes the view that it is beneficial to society as a whole to specifically fund access to third level education for people on welfare. It is suggested that funding access for these groups is more likely to result in employment for them, more likely to sustain employment, and furthermore it will reduce time spent unemployed in the future. Additionally the paper demonstrates from a financial viewpoint welfare to education programmes will provide the state with a larger return on its initial investment. However it is apparent that internationally welfare to education is seen as a luxury, and subservient to welfare to work programmes. This is increasingly becoming the case in Ireland. The final part of the paper is concerned specifically with the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) third level option. It finds that the BTEA has aided social inclusion to a certain extent by moving sections of the population off welfare and into sustainable quality work and to a position of higher status, which is largely based on occupation in our society. In essence it has helped to reduce the gap between the top and the bottom of the economic hierarchy. However it is shown that the BTEA falls short in a number of instances, namely the fact that it offers financial support alone, does not help individuals to obtain a third level place, and has removed the post graduate option for all bar one particular course of study. To this end it is argued that the addition of some key changes to the BTEA could result in major positive implications for the social inclusion of its target population.