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Thursday, 19 April 2018

Government pledge 'immediate help' to student nurses hit by loan error

Written by Alison Kershaw

Student nurses who had their loans cut off or reduced after an administrative error meant they were previously paid too much are to get "immediate help", the universities minister has said.

Under measures announced by Sam Gyimah, those affected by the Student Loans Company (SLC) mistake will not have to pay back the extra cash until after they graduate; with money also set aside for those facing hardship due to the slip-up.

The Royal College of Nursing, which has called for action to deal with the situation, said the move was a "small but welcome recognition" of the problem, but warned "it does not go anything like far enough".

More than 800 student nurses at 20 universities have been affected by the SLC error, which saw them given more money in their September and January loan instalments than they should have received, the RCN has said.

They had previously been told by the SLC that upcoming payments, including those being paid this month, would be cut or stopped in order to recoup the funds.

Mr Gyimah (pictured) has announced that the Government is setting up a deferred repayment scheme which will mean those affected will not have to pay back the extra money they received until after they have finished their course.

In addition, those who are facing hardship due to the error - for example those whose April loan instalment has been reduced or withheld - can apply for a payment of £1,000, which they will not have to repay.

It is understood that those applying for the one-off payment will have to prove that they have faced hardship as a result of the mistake. Those that take up the offer should receive the money within three working days, if approved.

It is not known how much money the Government has set aside for the fund.

Mr Gyimah said: "My priority has been to ensure none of the affected student nurses should suffer hardship as a result of an administrative error.

"These short-term, practical steps will provide immediate help for those who need it so they can concentrate on their studies and their future careers without concern."

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: "This is a small but welcome recognition of the problem. But it does not go anything like far enough.

"Student nurses will still struggle to pay bills and childcare costs and they must not be forced to turn to loan sharks or even quit their studies as a result.

"This was not a problem of their making and we will not let them pay the price. The overpayment mistakes must be written off and they need money this month without a bureaucratic nightmare.

"This announcement lacks detail and we will keep asking the difficult questions until students have the answers."

An SLC spokeswoman said: "We apologise to all those students who have been affected as a result of this administrative error. Our priority now is to contact them by email and letter to update them accordingly.

"We do not want anyone to suffer hardship as a result of reduced entitlement and would encourage anyone affected to email discretionary_payments@slc.co.uk.

"It is our aim to turn around applications for hardship funding within 24 hours and, unless further information is required, to pay out approved applications within three working days."

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