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Monday, 16 April 2018

Education Secretary urged to act after 800 student nurses hit with payment error

Written by Sally Wardle

The Education Secretary has been urged to intervene after student nurses at 20 universities had their loans and grants cut off or reduced due to administrative errors.

More than 800 people have been told they were paid too much money by the Student Loans Company (SLC) and informed upcoming payments will be reduced or stopped to recover the sums, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said.

Trade unions and professional bodies, including UNISON, the RCN and the National Union of Students (NUS), called on Damian Hinds (pictured) to "urgently intervene" to ensure those affected receive the financial support they had budgeted for next term.

The letter states: "We are writing to ask you to take urgent action to ensure healthcare students in England and Wales affected by errors made by the SLC will receive their anticipated payment of support in spring, as they had budgeted for.

"We also ask that you use the power at your discretion as Education Secretary to write off overpayments in the long-term for these students."

The letter adds: "Our student members are telling us that the risk of receiving a reduced payment, or no payment at all, will compromise their ability to continue studying.

"In some cases, we are hearing concerning reports from individual students who are considering discontinuing due to these financial pressures."

Overpayments of between £600 and £6,000 were made in error, the RCN said, adding that many students queried the sums but were told they were correct.

A "huge volume of calls" were continuing to be received from "worried and distressed students" due to the ongoing situation, the letter states.

"A sudden withdrawal of payments will have disastrous consequences for these students, who budget on a term by term basis according to loan and grant forecasts," it said.

"Many have families and children they will be unable to support if they do not receive additional income in the spring term."

The letter, coordinated by the RCN, is signed by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, NUS, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Occupational Therapists, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, Society of Radiographers, the College of Podiatry and UNISON.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We have been clear that none of the affected student nurses should suffer hardship as a result of this error.

"We have been working with the Student Loans Company to ensure students have the support they need and will shortly provide details on specific initiatives to help them."

Here is a list of the higher education institutes where at least one nursing student received an overpayment of their grant, maintenance loan or both in the academic year 2017/18:

  • Brunel University London
  • Cardiff University
  • Glyndwr University
  • Plymouth Marjon University
  • University of Brighton
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Suffolk
  • University of West London
  • Leeds University
  • University of Essex
  • University of Bedfordshire
  • University of Worcester
  • Anglia Ruskin University
  • London Metropolitan University
  • University of Central Lancashire
  • University of Derby
  • University of Portsmouth
  • University of Reading
  • University of Salford

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire.