Ministers have outlined “short-term” support measures designed to help student nurses affected by a loans error that has left hundreds potentially at financial risk.
The government has said that students affected can apply for additional payments of up to £1,000 and that a deferred re-payment scheme has also been set up.
“My priority has been to ensure none of the affected student nurses should suffer hardship”
The move was announced yesterday by the Department for Education in order to “ensure they are not disadvantaged”, said ministers in the wake of the error by the Student Loans Company.
However, the Royal College of Nursing claimed the government intervention, while welcome, was insufficient.
As previously reported, over 800 students on nursing and other healthcare courses have been affected by a mistake that means their latest loan instalments are at risk.
- Minister confirms scale of loans error affecting student nurses
- Loan error means students ‘will not receive further payments this year’
The Student Loans Company said those affected would not receive any further loan instalments for their living costs this academic year, after it mistakenly overpaid them at an earlier point in the year.
The number of universities affected by the problem, which first emerged last month, is thought to be around 20.
“This is a small but welcome recognition of the problem. But it does not go anything like far enough”
The government said on Wednesday that tthe Student Loans Company would be contacting the affected student nurses and confirmed that they will be eligible for normal support as per usual in the next academic year.
Students can apply for the additional, non-repayable, maintenance support for the rest of this academic year if they are facing hardship, it said.
The loans company has also agreed to defer the recovery of the overpaid funds until affected students have finished their courses and can afford to repay, it added.
The government stated that its new measures had been put in place to “ensure nursing students are not unfairly penalised by the recovery of overpayments to their student loans”.
Universities minister Sam 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,” he said.
Pay rise above 1% ‘needed to ease nurse crisis’
In response, 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,” warned Ms Davies.
“This was not a problem of their making and we will not let them pay the price,” she said. “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,” she added.
Students who have been affected can make a claim with the Student Loans Company when they are contacted so they can access the financial support. Alternatively, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org