HC Deb 09 February 2004 vol 417 c1114
12. Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab)

What measures through the social security system are being taken to help mothers who want to return to work. [153181]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Chris Pond)

We want to give parents real choices about whether to work, and we will continue to take measures to support mothers who want to return to work. Our new deal for lone parents has already helped more than 200,000 mothers into work. We are making child care affordable and accessible through the child care component of the new tax credits and the extra places created through our national child care strategy, including Sure Start and a network of children's centres, including one in my hon. Friend's constituency, offering early learning alongside child care.

Ms Keeble

I certainly welcome the measures set out by my hon. Friend, but does he accept that many single mothers with young children want to be able to get back to nursing and teaching? University College Northampton, which is in my patch, provides extremely good courses, but I receive quite a lot of complaints, because single parents cannot make the benefits from the social security and child care systems work with the student finance system. Would my hon. Friend look into that with colleagues from other Departments, to make it possible for lone parents with children to get training, particularly in nursing and teaching, so that they can get those valuable jobs?

Mr. Pond

My hon. Friend will be aware that student nurses can claim child tax credit. However, as the skills White Paper highlighted, we need to make sure that there is better co-ordination between the support provided for students and support generally for people on benefits. About 400,000 people who are receiving support through the benefits system are pursuing further education, but we recognise the need to work with our colleagues in the Department for Education and Skills to make sure that we fit the various pieces of the jigsaw together.