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Anomaly of the poor working parent

I am facing the ordeal of counselling penniless students in my professional capacity, while trying desperately to fund my children through university by working as many hours as I can stay awake.

As usual, I face an unanswerable dilemma: if two people are married, have children conceived in wedlock and work full-time for average salaries, they receive little or no maintenance grant for them.

If a single parent (divorced, widowed or never married) has to work to support their child, they will have the child's grant assessed against their income and probably receive little or nothing.

If a single parent marries a wealthy spouse and has no need to work, they will be classified as having no income. Thus the child will receive a full award.

In this way, thousands of young people go into higher education every year carrying full maintenance grants, while their wealthy step-parent maintains their natural parent in the lap of luxury. Meanwhile, those of us who have stayed married andor worked to support our children, pay twice - once for our own children and once through our taxes for the children of those wealthy enough to provide their spouses with a grand lifestyle.

I realise that in Sir Ron Dearing's review parental contributions are but a small issue against the greater questions of grants versus loans versus student accounts. However, any system can still potentially incorporate this anomaly, and I would ask him earnestly to look at all its implications.

ANGELA SHAW

Senior lecturer

Bradford and Ilkley Community College

West Yorkshire

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