Being Unfairly Harassed By SLC Debt Collection
I hope someone might be able to give me some advice about how to deal with this.
I suspended university studies in March 2018 due to severe illness. When students suspend studies due to illness a 60-day grace period is applied in which no repayment of student loan for that period is required. I did everything correctly and was assured by both the university and Student Finance England that this applied in my case.
In January 2020 (there was no explanation for the long delay) I received a demand from SLC for repayment of overpaid student loan. I knew it was incorrect as I sought a lot of financial advice when I left my course. When I contacted them, they said the rules for suspension due to illness had not been applied, but could not tell me why. They said someone would investigate and get back to me, then everything shut down due to covid and I didn’t hear anything more.
In January 2021, after no other contact, I began receiving letters from debt collectors demanding repayment of the erroneous amount. I again contacted SLC and explained the situation. After much confusion and delay they finally told me the illness suspension rules had not been applied because my university had not sent them a crucial form when I left my course, and that I needed to contact the university and tell them to send it. It took some time to get the university to do this, and SLC finally confirmed receipt of the form in May 2021, and said they would process it and correct the error. By then I had been receiving increasingly urgent letters, texts and emails from debt collectors for months. SLC claimed they could do nothing to stop this because the system was automated and their only advice was to ignore and “not worry about" the debt collection letters. I am very seriously ill and unable to leave home, and even making phonecalls is very difficult for me. I told them I was being caused a lot of stress due to no fault of mine, but they were not interested.
There was no further contact until a few days ago when I received a text from another, different debt collection agency, followed by a letter and an email, demanding I repay the still incorrect figure to SLC. Apparently they have not processed the form and corrected the error at all. I am no longer able to phone them due to deterioration of my health so I can only write to them, and I assume that once again this will take time to sort out. In the meantime, is there anything I can do to make them stop the debt collectors, and if this continues is there a way to seek recompense for the difficulties they are causing me? I am really struggling to deal with it.
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