Last year I had to transer to Plymouth Uni from Solent in order to finish my degree. I was very apprehensive about doing so as I had been diagnosed the previous year with anxiety and depression which resulted in me missing final exams. I spent the summer getting better and building confidence to start uni again.
I phoned SFE regarding the transfer and the 'advisor' told me there would be a 2 week delay in receiving the loan as they would transfer the application. Based on this I moved my life to Plymouth (I am 31 so I dont have a sponsor or another home during the holidays).
2 weeks went by and no loan materialised, I phoned SFE again and the 'advisor' told me that a whole new application had been generated as I had transfered uni. Had I known this I would NEVER have moved to Plymouth in the condition I was in, I made this clear when I asked about the transfer initially. I was told it could be another 4 weeks as SFE would require some paperwork from Plymouth.
I tried to claim hardship from the Uni but you must be in receipt of your student loan to get hardship. You cannot claim benefits as a student so the only option was a cash advance from the uni (£450 maximum), I took this and assumed SFE would follow shortly after. I also took out a loan from the student run loan company Smart Pig based on my application, as I had no other choice. As time ticked on and no loan still arrived my mental health began to deteriorate rapidly as I had no security, I had signed a contract for student accomodation and I was eating on £2 a day.
I called SFE several times and literally begged the advisors to help me but this was ultimately pointless.
In the middle of November I was asked to leave the accomodation and had to stay in a half way house with some really disgusting people, by this time I was an absolute wreck.
The loan did not materialse until december, when it did come I had to pay some serious interest on my smartpig loan, as they had sold it to a debt collector, and I had late charges to pay on accomodation I wasn't staying in. Which left me in a position where I could not realistically afford to pay without returning to work, and I couldnt return to work as I spent 90% of my day sweating and panicking.
At this point the uni advised me to suspend or withdrawer from my studies as I was clearly not fit to continue. To be clear, a student suspending cannot claim any benefits as they are technically still a student, a withdrawing student is not technically a student so can claim benefits but would owe the uni 25% tuition fee, so more debt is the only answer.
I could not afford to return to my hometown and have never felt so ashamed of myself, I had made promises based on what SFE had told me and let people down.
At this point I attempted to take my own life, I cant beleive I did it but I did, so thanks for that experience. Its not easy to write that on here, i've had to walk away from the computer several times already but it needs to be said, you really ****ed me up.
One of my ex housemates heard about this and told my ex landlord, who promtly invited me back to the house in order to help me get back on my feet. He even waived all charges and let me pay my arrears as and when I could. I'm still living in his house now and i've just finished paying my arrears, he is a really decent human being.
Three months later I started working again and have worked up to 90 hour weeks in domicle care over the summer to pay off my debt, I can send you my timesheets if you think I exaggerate.
This year I had to send in a paper application with a Doctors note and an explanation like this one, it took you less than 3 days to approve my loan. That in itself tells me someone at SFE acknowledges this was unacceptable. I was expecting an apology and a waiver for the loan I got last year as a sign of good faith, but sadly nothing has happened.
Before returning to uni I was a prison officer and had had all confidence in the world, care was a primary concern in my role especially when dealing with mental health issues. I have talked an individual out of self harm on several occasions, gone above and beyond to accomodate people suffering mentally, decent people care about people in their care. So I fully expected that a governement company like SFE would have a similar duty of care for the people they provide financial security for, and that the advisors would actually be helpful.
I have read the SLC annual report and the CEO makes it very clear that SFE is a customer foccused company. It is not.
To add insult to injury at the start of this summer I was contacted by SLC demanding over £200 for an overpayment, could you be any more degrading?
Over the summer I conducted an experiment, I phoned SFE several times and asked:
"Who is the CEO of SFE or SLC?"
None knew the answer, some stated that "it wasnt that kind of company" or "we dont have one". So how is it the CEO intends to create a customer foccused company when the employees don't even know who their boss is? What kind of message does that deliver?
I would like some answers as to why I was treated this way, lied to and put in the position I have outlined. I have already supplied the doctors eveidence to you. I would also like my loan from last year written off, this is the bear minimum. I could be dead now, if it wasnt for some wonderful people in Plymouth I probably would be.
At the very least the advisors I spoke to should not be in your employment, Steve Lamey should get himself into the office and identify to the staff who he is and what kind of operation he is running. He and his staff must understand that they provide financial security, especially for mature students with no sponsor and even more so for people suffering mental illness. And he must recognise that the annual report is not a fair reflection on his companys performance.
Honestly I felt sick applying for SFE this year.
Im feeling much better now, thanks for asking, and intend to explore every avenue to hold your organisation to account.
I look foward to your responce.
Accountability, Mental Health and SFE
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Apologies for the inconvenience you've experienced.
As your post contains and requires an in depth look into your account, we cannot assist from here as we can only provide general information.
If you're looking to register a complaint to have this looked into, full details of how to do so can be found here; http://bit.ly/1cyqb7D