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Student nurses face financial hardship over loan error, says nursing body

This article was taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/apr/16/nurses-facing-financial-hardship-over-student-loan-company-error-rcn

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Student Loan Company halts or cuts funding for 800 in England and Wales after overpayments

Hundreds of student nurses whose loans and grants have been cut off or reduced because of administrative errors are facing financial hardship and in some cases may not be able to continue their studies, nurses leaders have warned.

More than 800 people at 20 universities have been told they had been paid too much by the Student Loans Company (SLC) and informed subsequent payments would be reduced or halted to recover the overpayments, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said.

Professional bodies and trade unions, including Unison, the RCN and the National Union of Students (NUS) are calling on Damian Hinds, the education secretary, to urgently intervene to ensure those affected will receive the financial support they have budgeted for next term.

In a joint letter to Hinds, the organisations said: “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 added: “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 between £600 and £6,000 have been made in error by the SLC, according to the RCN, which added that many students had queried the sums but had been assured the payments were correct.

According to the letter, a “huge volume of calls” were being made by “worried and distressed students” whowere concerned about their financial future.

“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.

The letter, which was been organised by the RCN, is signed by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, the NUS, the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, the Society of Radiographers, the College of Podiatry and Unison.

In response to the letter, 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.”