HC Deb 18 December 2000 vol 360 cc4-5
3. Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)

If he will make a statement on the payment of housing benefit to eligible students with loans. [141803]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Angela Eagle)

Most full-time students are supported by the student support system, which is designed to meet their needs. Full-time students in vulnerable groups and all part-time students are entitled to claim housing benefit.

Mr. Thomas

The Government's policy of taking into account student loans as full income for housing benefit purposes is affecting mature students in particular, including students at the universities at Lampeter and Aberystwyth. Why count loans as income at all? After all, they are usually paid back with interest at the end of a certain period. Why count loans as income in full, especially if an individual student has not taken out a loan or has taken out only a very small loan?

Angela Eagle

It is our policy to count all eligible income, and that includes student loans. At the moment, only part-time or vulnerable students can apply for housing benefit. Extra protections are in place to ensure that we do all that we can to enable people in those categories to take advantage of the right to study. Changes will be introduced to the treatment of student loans in income-related benefits, which will mean that lone-parent students will be likely to receive more help during July and August than they have previously.

The Department for Education and Employment will also introduce the child care grant, based on the cost of child care, which will help students who look after dependent children. I hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and we are doing our best to tailor the system to enable those who wish to take advantage of education to do so in a practical way.