We spoke to estranged students about Facebook monitoring by the student loan company
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Evidence sent to TNS shows that the Student Loans Company trawled through Facebook to find communication between estranged students and their parents. In February 2018, the government-owned Student Loans Company (SLC) opened an anti-fraud inquiry into the cases of 150 estranged students, they were randomly selected. Students who were no longer in contact with their parents were informed of the inquiry by post, which was allegedly sent to their home address rather than their term-time address. They were given a 28-day limit in which to send evidence supporting their estranged status. Stand Alone, a charity that supports estranged people, is currently working with students who have been targeted by the investigation. They have called for the loans company to review their anti-fraud system after they were sent mixed messages about loan suspensions. The charity is asking for the company to reinstate funding for students whose instalments are being withheld without any proof of fraud. A letter sent to TNS affirms allegations of social media snooping. As part of the anti-fraud investigations, the Facebook accounts of estranged students were monitored and trawled through. Part of the letter to estranged student Rita* reads: You had applied for Student Finance on the basis that you where estranged, however, we have found evidence on Facebook of conversations between you and your mum in October 2017. You had also provided bank statements... and your mother transferred an amount of £70.00 with the reference “Christmas.” We do believe you were estranged at one point but now have some sort of relationship with your mum. As a result of this, a decision has been made that your application for 2017/18 onwards will be reassessed to non-means tested until your mum provides her financial evidence to support your means-tested claim.” Student loans and grants are awarded based on parent income. The SLC assume that because Rita is allegedly in touch with her mother again, then her mother will financially support Rita - unless the mother earns under a certain income band. The loans company fails to understand the complicated relationship between estranged families - their response wrongly assumes that financial support will be available if contact is made.
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