Martin Lewis has successfully managed to get the Government to change its guidance on student loans, after highlighting incorrect information that may have meant students from vulnerable households missed out on vital support.
The MoneySavingExpert founder announced last week that he was calling for an “urgent correction” on information provided on the gov.uk website, saying that it was providing “false and misleading” information to students applying for loans and their parents. Martin wrote to the chief executive of the Student Loans company outlining the errors, which he said have been on gov.uk for at least two years.
The incorrect information was regarding current year income assessments for student maintenance loans in England, which allows households who have experienced a substantial drop in income to have this taken into account when the student’s living loan assessment is being decided. This means that the loan will be bigger, providing a “crucial lifeline for many”, Martin explained.
The information on the gov.uk website previously stated: “You’ll qualify for an assessment if your expected household income after the 15% decrease is between £25,000 and £58,291 a year. If your household income is more than £58,291 a year but less than £70,040 a year, you may still qualify depending on the student’s circumstances.
“If your total household income is likely to be less than £25,000 a year, you will not be able to get an assessment unless the student needs it to get a bursary or scholarship from a university or college or extra student finance for children or dependent adults.”
However, Martin explained that the information was “wrong and/or unclear” in two areas. Speaking of the £25,000 threshold, he said in his letter to the Student Loans Company: “I presume the reason for the £25,000 rule is students from households that get less will already be getting the full maintenance loan.
“Yet someone could, and likely many would, qualify for a current year income assessment if their household income was less than £25,000 a year after the decrease, if their income was over £25,000 a year in the initial application assessment period. Sudden and substantial drops in income like this are exactly what this rule is meant to help.”
Martin added: “An applicant could qualify if their household income is likely to be less than £25,000 a year, for example if household income was previously above £25,000 a year in the initial application assessment period. It would be helpful to clarify that if household income was less than £25,000 a year in the initial application, they would already be receiving the maximum maintenance available, so wouldn’t gain from a current year income assessment.”
Martin said that the information “will have deterred some from applying for this much needed assessment”, due to people wrongly assuming they would not qualify based on the information. “Ultimately, this will have the biggest impact on the most vulnerable households which already may be experiencing cashflow problems during the cost of living crisis, with students from those households potentially missing out on hundreds, or even thousands of pounds of support that they were absolutely entitled to,” he said.
As of May 9, the gov.uk website has now been updated to provide the correct information, as Martin awaits a formal response from the Student Loans Company. The updated information can be read here.
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