The income of thousands of mothers working in ancillary jobs in schools and colleges while their children are small may be reduced by new social security rules.
Until now, such women have been able to claim family credit on top of their wages because they were seen as working full-time. Family credit, which averages Pounds 46.50 a week, is only available to a family where the claimant or partner is in full-time work, defined as 16 or more hours per week. But a social security commissioner has ruled that the hours worked by school ancillary workers should be calculated over the full year, rather than just term time, for benefit purposes. Michael Goodman decided a school receptionist worked only part-time, and her unemployed husband was therefore entitled to income support.
His ruling has less welcome repercussions for school workers receiving family credit, as the new way of calculating their average earnings pushes many into the part-time category and removes their entitlement. Donna Walker, a single parent from Great Bookham, Surrey, who works 16 hours a week at a nursery school, has lost her Pounds 266.80 a month family credit. When she protested to Peter Lilley, the Social Security Secretary, she was advised to claim income support. But she is refusing, because she does not accept that an entitlement can be withdrawn when her circumstances have not altered.
A Department of Social Security spokesman said officials were monitoring the situation to see if there was a need to amend the rules.