TNS have received information to suggest that The Student Loans Company is contradicting itself with regards to the funding of estranged students.
Evidence sent to us shows that the loans company trawled through recipients' Facebook
pages to find communication between estranged students and their parents.
A crop of 150 students were selected to be investigated by the company's anti-fraud department.
Students were given a 28-day period to send evidence to prove their estrangement. If they failed to do so, the last instalment of their maintenance and fee loans, due in the run-up to examinations, would be suspended.
Regardless of student responses, many individual investigations had not been concluded by the time the third instalments were due in April.
Minutes from an SLC meeting seen by the Guardian said 81 students had funding withheld - this number decreased as the investigation progressed.
However, the SLC claim that they withheld funding from 34 students who have not responded to their requests, two who withdrew their applications and one for fraud. Five other students will only be receiving non-means tested loans.
In a statement to The Guardian, the SLC said the 34 students will have all their loans 'withheld.'
'There are currently 34 students who have not yet responded to our requests for information and, as a result, we have withheld the third instalment of their maintenance and fee loans.'
Despite learning only a handful of students were guilty of fraud, the SLC initially suspended funding from more than half of the 150 students.
However, SLC then responded to another source explaining that students being investigated would continue to be paid non-means tested loans and tuition fees would still be paid to their universities:
A further 34 students are yet to respond to our letter. Until they do, they will be ineligible for the estrangement element of their future funding; however, they will continue to be eligible for non-means tested maintenance loans and tuition fee payments will continue to be made to their college or university.
However, the response from the SLC's counter-fraud department contradicted the above statement - they said that all funding is blocked during an investigation.
In fact, a representative from the counter-fraud department was confused about the prospect of means-tested funding would be paid out whilst they investigate.
'When an account is being investigated by the Counter Fraud Services, we block all funding tuition fees maintenance loan and maintenance grant and nothing is paid out until the review is complete.
This also contradicts the SLC's previous statement which stated that the 34 students who 'have not yet responded to our requests for information' will have the 'third instalment of their maintenance and fee loans' withheld as a result.
An email exchange shown to us at The National Student has revealed how the SLC and its investigating body are sending conflicting messages - perhaps due to departmental miscommunication.
The firm, therefore, cannot decide whether it is or isn’t handing out non-means tested maintenance loans to students still under investigation who have not yet replied with evidence.
Despite this inconsistent statement assuring the safety of non-means tested instalment for those remaining under investigation, some students allegedly had their payments postponed for up to five months.
According to Stand Alone, a charity helping estranged adults, forty-four students are still without any form of instalment.
The charity also revealed that although 34 of those students have not yet responded, 11 other students answered after the 28-day deadline and the investigation into their cases continues now.