HC Deb 23 April 1998 vol 310 cc685-6W
Mr. Willis

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to amend the Social Security (Students) Regulations 1998 to allow students who for bona fide reasons take time out from their studies to have access to state benefits. [39021]

Mr. Alan Howarth

Financial support is already available for higher education students who take time out from their studies owing to illness. In England and Wales, the Mandatory Awards Regulations provide that when a student is ill, the Local Education Authority (LEA) must continue to make payments under the award for 28 days. If a student remains ill after 28 days, the LEA has discretion to continue payments. Where a student has been absent from the course through illness for 28 weeks, he or she may apply for Income Support. At this point, the LEA support would be expected to cease. In England and Wales, the LEA also has discretion to continue support for other bona fide reasons.

In Scotland, students who are necessarily absent from their course owing to illness, but who intend to resume as soon as circumstances permit, may continue to receive maintenance from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) so long as they remain enrolled on the course.

We are considering what further action we might take on support for students forced to take time out from their studies.

Mr. Flight

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what estimate he has made of the expected debt on graduation of a student entering a three-year undergraduate course in the autumn of 1998 under(a) the Government's student tuition fees proposals and (b) the Dearing Committee's proposals assuming receipt of a full maintenance grant; and if he will make a statement. [39328]

Dr. Howells

The maximum amount that a student can borrow will depend on the place of study, as well as the student's and his or her parents' or spouse's income. Under the Government's proposals, a student completing a three-year course outside London which began in 1998 and who took out the full loan available each year might expect to have borrowed a total of £9,355 in 1998 prices. The comparable figure under the Dearing Committee's proposals would be £8,083, assuming full implementation in 1998/99. Repayments under our proposed system will be made only when a graduate's income exceeds £10,000 a year and the level of repayments will then be linked directly to the individual's income above that amount. A graduate with an income of £7,000 per annum, for example, would make weekly repayments of about £12 a week.

Students and their families will be expected to contribute no more up front to the costs of their higher education under our proposals than they would under the current arrangements. Our proposals will ensure that students have access to the funds which they need while they are studying while generating substantial additional resources for investment in higher and further education.