Benefit threat to jobless students

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Unemployed students taking part-time courses while claiming benefit may find they are no longer able to do so under the Government's new Job Seekers Bill, writes Fran Abrams.

Rules which allowed people to study for up to 21 hours - 15 under supervision and six in private - while receiving income support are to be changed, it was announced last night. In future, the 80,000 students taking advantage of the rules will be able to study for only 16 hours.

Students claiming benefit are supposed to be actively seeking work and must be prepared to leave courses if offered a job.

Ann Widdecombe, Minister of State for Employment, said during the Bill's committee stage in the Commons that the change was because further education colleges no longer use the concepts of full- and part-time courses.

Last night, opposition groups said the move could mean unemployed people having to leave courses.

Labour's employment spo-keswoman, Harriet Harman, said: "The Government is going in completely the wrong direction. It should be helping people get training and skills, and get off the dole."

Ruth Gee, chief executive of the Association for Colleges, said the new rules could make life more difficult for students.

nUniversity students are entitled to apply for income support when they take time off from courses and cannot find work, the Court of Appeal ruled.

Law report, page 30