Plans to allow families of apprentices to claim child benefit have been defeated in Parliament today.
An amendment to the Technical and Further Education Bill from the House of Lords would have entitled families of apprentices to financial support. However, Robert Halfon, minister for apprenticeships and skills, told MPs that the proposals would cost the government more than £200 million.
He said that an apprenticeship “was a job” and that it should be “treated accordingly”, adding that 82 per cent of apprentices are paid at or above the appropriate minimum wage. "One of the core principles of an apprenticeship is that it is a job and it is treated accordingly in the benefits system," Mr Halfon said.
"A job that offers high-quality training, a job that widens opportunities and a job where more than 90 per cent of apprentices continue into another job on completion."
The amendment was defeated in the House of Commons by 298 votes to 182. Last night, Mr Halfon told Tes that he was "very hopeful" the Bill would be approved before the general election.
'Benefit opens doors'
Gordon Marsden, shadow minister for higher education, further education and skills, spoke in support of the amendment. He highlighted an article in Tes that revealed that apprentices were excluded from a number of means of support available to counterparts in FE institutions.
“[Tes] in February published an eloquent chart which spelled out in graphic detail the current gap in support between students and apprentices,” Mr Marsden said. “No access for apprentices to care to learn grants, no access for their families to universal credit or council tax credit, and, most trenchantly and most relevant in terms of amendment one, no access to child benefit… we understand on our side of the house and I’m sure honourable gentlemen and ladies do on the other, that it’s not simply the benefit itself, it’s the doors that that benefit opens to other benefits, which is a key element in the question.”