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Homeless mother Erica Fleming calls for Leo Varadkar's help

Erica Fleming is requesting a review of the Back to Education Allowance criteria.

Main entrance, Trinity College Dublin.
Main entrance, Trinity College Dublin.
Image: Shutterstock/Aitormmfoto

HOMELESS MOTHER-OF-one Erica Fleming has called on Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar to review the limitations around the Lone Parent Allowance.

In an interview on The Ryan Tubridy Show on RTÉ Radio 1, Erica outlined the process she went through: from being one of 25 students to be offered a place in Trinity College Dublin through its Access Programme, to being rejected for Back to Education Allowance (BTEA), which she would need to attend the college.

The BTEA is worth €160 and is in place for those who want to return to education and who have been unemployed for 3 months (second level education) to nine months (third level education).

“I received the letter on Friday to say that I’m not receiving a qualifying payment for the BTEA,” she explained. “I work 8-2, which is college time, so I can’t go to college and live on air – I have to be able to feed my child.

The opportunity is gone.

She also spoke about how she wanted to “break the mould” with her daughter Emily:

“Emily was so proud, because I had told her that she would get the chance to go to Trinity.”

Lone Parent Allowance review

In her criticism of the decision to deny her access to the grant, Erica said that this allowance was changed recently to exclude mothers that don’t meet strict criteria, and that the policy needs to be reviewed.

The fact of the matter is that this policy was changed last year, because Joan Burton said that any parent with a child over seven years of age no longer qualified for the Lone Parent Allowance.

“She was trying to play it down by saying that it was just switching parents from one allowance to another, but now, obviously, it’s a big thing and lots of other lone parents have received the same letter.”

“I’d really hope Leo Varadkar would look at this – this is wrong. We are trying to motivate lone parents to get them out of poverty.”

In a direct address to Leo Varadkar, Erica pleaded on the minister to review the situation.

I’m asking him to look at the policy that was brought in last year to prevent lone parents from going to third level education. I’m asking him to change it for everybody – not just for me – and to see the logic in sending us back to third level education, to give us the opportunity to get out of poverty. And I’m asking him to do that today.

TheJournal.ie has contacted Leo Varadkar’s office for comment and has not yet received a response.

‘Hammered on social media’

Erica also spoke passionately about the criticism she’s facing on social media as a consequence of her requests for the review.

“All weekend I’m getting hammered on social media, which I think is wrong because they’re not looking at the bigger picture. I want to be able to move away from social welfare, away from relying on the government. I want to be able to have a job that’s a career.”

I don’t want to have to rely on anybody, I don’t want to have to rely on the social welfare system. I want to be able to stand on my own two feet.

Read: Homeless single mum who secured a place in Trinity has been refused Back To Education Allowance

Read: Teenage girl placed in secure unit to protect her from being sexually exploited by men

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