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Students: Loans

Volume 498: debated on Thursday 29 October 2009

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent discussions he has had with the Student Loans Company (SLC) on its research on the number of students expected to enter higher education in autumn 2009; and what recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of SLC staffing levels to deal with that number of applications. (292486)

The financial settlement requested by the Student Loans Company (SLC) for financial year 2009-10 assumed an additional 24,000 applications would be received in academic year 2009-10 compared to the previous year. The Department met SLC's 2009-10 financial settlement in full, providing all of the £6.9 million additional costs identified by the Company—including £993,000 specifically to process the expected 24,000 additional applications. Subsequently, the Department provided a further £230,000 following a request from the company to help deal with the larger than expected number of telephone calls received during August to October.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent discussions he has had with the Student Loans Company on the robustness of its complaints system. (292487)

It is important that the Student Loans Company has sound arrangements for dealing with complaints. My officials were involved in the recent review of complaints handling undertaken by the company. In May 2009, I appointed four new assessors to offer independent and impartial decisions on cases that are not resolved within the company. In June 2009, I set performance targets for the company relating to handling of complaints as part of a broad set of robust performance measures.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent representations he has received concerning the operation of the Student Loans Company; and if he will make a statement. (292488)

I have had a number of representations from customers having difficulty in contacting the Student Loans Company to enquire about their applications for student support for the 2009-10 academic year because the Company has received more telephone calls than it can answer. The SLC has put in place a number of measures to help students follow the progress of their applications, and to address the problems people have had when trying to get through to their call centres. These include: creating 70 per cent. additional telephone lines; adding 144 staff to answer phones, as well as more staff working overtime at the SLC and its outsource providers, increasing call centre operating capacity by around 35 per cent.; reminding students that they can check the status of their application online; and making improvements to answers to the most common enquiries on the internet, and directing callers to these via a recorded telephone message.

The Student Loans Company will shortly release figures to show the levels of processing and payment of Student Support in England for the 2009-10 academic year.

The releases will include the following information:

Total applications received

Applications approved

Applications currently being processed

Ineligible/withdrawn applications

Applications started online but not completed

Further information required from student/sponsors

Students receiving first maintenance payment.

The first release of this information will be on 27 October 2009, and this will cover the processing and payment up to and including 18 October 2009. This will be followed by a further two updates at weekly intervals. The information will be made available on the Student Loans Company website.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how many students have not yet had their application to the Student Loans Company finalised; and what assessment he has made of undue delays in finalising loans on the ability of new students to manage their finances without having to resort to other loans and bank overdrafts. (292489)

The Student Loans Company will shortly release figures to show the levels of processing and payment of Student Support in England for the 2009-10 academic year.

The releases will include the following information:

Total applications received

Applications approved

Applications currently being processed

Ineligible/withdrawn applications

Applications started online but not completed

Further information required from student/sponsors

Students receiving first maintenance payment.

The first release of this information will be on 27 October 2009, and this will cover the processing and payment up to and including 18 October 2009. This will be followed by a further two updates at weekly intervals. The information will be made available on the Student Loans Company website.

The Access to Learning Fund, provided by the Government and administered by Higher Education Institutions, can provide assistance to students in financial hardship.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how much has been deducted in student loan repayments from the salaries of individuals in each income group resident in (a) the Truro and St. Austell constituency, (b) Cornwall and (c) England in each of the last five years. (295635)

Deductions from salaries are made when the borrower’s income is above £15,000 per year, £1,250 per month or £288 per week. A borrower who starts work late in the tax year on an annual salary above £15,000 will have deductions made but may have earnings during the tax year of less than £15,000.

Reliable information is not available at constituency level.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills how many people of each age group resident in (a) the Truro and St. Austell constituency, (b) Cornwall and (c) England had not repaid their student loans on the latest date for which figures are available. (295636)

Borrowers become liable to repay their loans in the April after they leave their course (the statutory repayment due date, SRDD). After that date those with earnings of over £15,000 will repay, usually by deductions from salary. Those liable to repay who have not yet made a repayment will include borrowers whose earnings are below the repayment threshold, have gone on to further study or are doing voluntary work.

Reliable information is not available at constituency level.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what estimate his Department has made of the average time it will take for an individual to repay in full a student loan taken out (a) before and (b) after 2006. (295637)

We estimate that students who entered higher education since 1998, who took out Income Contingent Repayment student loans, and who fully repay, will take an average of around 13 years to do so.