§ Ms Atherton
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the impact of reducing or withdrawing income support from lone parent students prior to receipt of student loans at the start of term. 
§ Malcolm Wicks
The Government are encouraging everyone with the necessary qualifications, including lone parents, to enter further and higher education. For further education institutions in England', we have increased the ring-fenced budget for child care funds by1004W 20 per cent. to £36 million in 2002–03. In higher education in England and Wales', lone parents already pay no tuition fees if their income is less than £20,480, and have access to a range of support including grants for child care, school meals and travel, books and equipment. These grants are being simplified from next September, as all lone parents (including students) will now be eligible for the new child tax credit being introduced from April 2003. This will make it even easier for lone parents to make the transition from benefits to higher education.
Student loans are paid in three instalments and are taken into account in income-related benefits for the period they are intended to cover i.e. September to June. The Department for Education and Skills has made arrangements to ensure that students who need financial help in the period before their first loan instalment arrives, can receive a payment from the Access and Hardship Funds held by their university to tide them over. This payment is disregarded in assessing entitlement to income-related benefits.1Further and higher education arrangements in Scotland may differ from those in England.