Welsh deal allows the hard-up to feel full benefits of a grant

November 29, 2002

The Welsh Assembly has struck an agreement with Westminster to save students claiming new grants from losing up to £1,000 in benefits, writes Tony Tysome.

The grant, introduced this year, entitles 43,000 low-income students a maximum of £1,500 a year to cover the cost of studies.

It has been described by the assembly as a flagship initiative responding to advice from an independent review of student support in Wales.

But the Department for Work and Pensions told the assembly last month that some students might lose benefits if they claimed the grant, because it would be counted as income.

Jane Davidson, the assembly's minister for education and lifelong learning, told the assembly government last week that, following discussions, the DWP had agreed to disregard learning grants from calculations on income.

The news was welcomed by student union leaders, who lobbied assembly members on the issue two weeks ago and persuaded a third of them to sign a statement calling for the abolition of up-front tuition fees.

Tom McGarry, president of NUS Wales, said: "The introduction of grants in Wales was a positive move by the assembly, and making sure students are not penalised reaffirms their commitment to finding a better student funding system. Westminster needs to take notes."

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