In the General Debate last week I told the story of a man who had succeeded against the odds after being made redundant as a train driver in the mid 80s. Despite having left school on the day he turned 15, he enrolled at University, first for a Liberal Studies Certificate and then for a law degree. It was not easy; he was educationally disadvantaged. His marriage had broken up and he was caring for his 2 children on the DPB. But he had 2 things going for him – preferential entry to do a degree course (he was one of 10 quota students – chosen because they did not have the formal qualifications to get into law school but who, if qualified, would be able to contribute back to their community in some way) and second – he had the Training Incentive Allowance. This man now has his own law firm, his sons are doing really well, he is serving on a variety of community boards as a volunteer and he is married again – to me. This is my husband’s story. The essence of this story has been recounted many times over from the polytechs and universities from one end of the country to the other. In most cases though the Training Incentive Allowance has supported women on the DPB, just like our own Minister of Social Development & Employment. And I say good on her for taking advantage of a programme designed to help people like her and my husband.
My question is why has she presided over a change in policy that limits the TIA support to Level 3 Certificates and below? What about Level 4 and above? Degrees like the ones she and my husband have are Level 7. Why would she pull up the ladder behind her, so no-one else can achieve her level of success? The irony is that a person on the DPB can use the TIA to help them get a certificate as a residential care assistant in the rest home (where they pay little more than minimum wage), but can’t use it to become a fully qualified nurse and essentially pay the cost of the DPB in the first year in fulltime work! There will be more on this, because not only does this inexplicable decision destroy the plans of people who are doing the pre-entry course for nursing this year, but it also doesn’t make sense for a country that is crying out for nurses. Interested in feedback – and keen to hear more stories from people who have had their plans stymied.