CSP urges Student Loans Company not to recover overpayments

CSP chief executive Karen Middleton has written a stern letter to the Student Loans Company (SLC) saying an overpayment error was ‘unacceptable’, and should be written off.

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Physiotherapy students at the 2018 CSP student representative conference in Leeds. Photo: Darren O'Brien/Guzelian

‘We believe the errors happened because second and third-year students with the NHS bursaries were treated under the same payment conditions as first-year students without the NHS bursary, leading to overpayments,’ explained CSP student officer Ciara Younge.

 

CSP student officer Ciara Younge speaking at the 2018 CSP student representative conference in Leeds. Photo: Darren O'Brien/Guzelian

The overpayments to students in a dozen allied health professional degree courses range from £600 to £3,900.

Students queried the amounts the SLC gave them at the start of the academic year last September and they were wrongly assured they had received the correct amounts, however, the errors have only come to light recently as the SLC started contacting students individually about the overpayments, Ms Younge said.

‘These errors are unacceptable. A student nurse has been overpaid by £5,000. Some have been told they may not get their final loan payment. Students are in financial hardship as a result of this error and some are considering dropping out.’

CSP student executive committee chair Luke Tobin is in his third year at Cardiff University, where around half his cohort are affected, including himself.

‘It’s been quite tricky for a lot of people and financial hardship is the bottom line,’ he told Frontline.

 

CSP student executive committee chair Luke Tobin speaks at the 2018 CSP student representative conference in Leeds. Photo: Darren O'Brien/Guzelian

‘I’ve heard of students telling Student Finance England, ”I think I’ve received too much and what would you like me to do about it?” But it wasn’t identified as an overpayment and those who did flag it up were told it was “not a problem”.’

Advice from the SLC that students should apply for hardship funds was leaving some ‘in limbo’, said Mr Tobin.

‘What if they don’t qualify for SLC hardship scheme? A lot rely on their own finances – some being estranged from their parents or having lived away from home for some time – and some have mortgages.

‘For those people it is even more stressful, having financial stress alongside academic stress. The combination of these really has an impact.’

Mr Tobin urged students to check their SLC account for an online letter. ‘Postal ones come some time after and some students seem not to have received paper notification as yet. Others are getting individual-based responses via phone.’

 

An example of a letter from the Student Loans Company

Ms Younge said: ‘I’m worried that some students haven’t taken note of their payments or emails and are expecting their final loan payment in April, that may not come.’

A SLC statement said: ‘We are investigating the sequence of events that led to a number of NHS-funded students at some institutions incorrectly receiving too much funding in the academic year 2017-18.

‘Our priority is to support those affected and, for students who find themselves in hardship as a result of the error, we will defer the overpayments collection until after the end of the academic year or the end of their course.’

Responding to the SLC statement, the CSP’s Ciara Younge stressed that students should not have to suffer as a result of the error.  Along with bodies such as the Royal College of Nursing and the Society of Radiographers, the society urged the SLC to write off the overpayments, she said.

Students are being asked to approach the SLC for hardship money but it was unclear what would constitute ‘financial hardship’. Any application could take from two to three weeks to be assessed, Ms Younge added.

Read Karen Middleton’s letter to the SLC as a Word attachment below.

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by Gary Henson

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