Benefit crackdown

July 25, 1997

UNEMPLOYED people studying their way back to work through Westminster University could be forced to quit their courses if benefits chiefs stop their money.

Up to 15 people, some of whom have been unemployed for two years, may have to leave marketing courses because the social security department thinks they may be breaking Job Seekers Allowance rules.

The rules state that a person is eligible for benefit support if they are studying for 16 hours or less a week. It is commonplace for students in further education to study part-time in this way while continuing to receive benefits.

But because these courses are run by Westminster University the Department for Social Security is concerned that these students are really studying full-time and therefore ineligible for Job Seekers Allowance because they are, by definition, unavailable for work.

Course tutor Judith Margolis said: "The department seems to take the view that 16 hours' teaching in a university is full-time because universities put more emphasis on student initiative and private study.

"Three of my students have already had their benefits stopped pending a review of their position. They have no income and have told me that unless I get this sorted out in a week or so then they will have to leave the course simply to be able to live."

A DSS spokesman said that there was no differentiation between further and higher education when it came to determining eligibility for the allowance. He said that it would be up to the local DSS office to determine individual cases.

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