£3.25m over­paid to stu­dents in grants er­ror

Cynon Valley - - YOUR NEWS -

THE Welsh Gov­ern­ment has to write off £3.25m after in­cor­rectly pay­ing grants to stu­dents over a decade.

The grants, known as grants for de­pen­dants (GFD), were paid to Welsh stu­dents on dis­tance learn­ing courses.

But, the GFD grant should not have been paid to stu­dents on dis­tance learn­ing courses as they are not phys­i­cally at­tend­ing a cam­pus.

It then emerged that Stu­dent Fi­nance Wales and the Open Univer­sity had con­firmed that part­time stu­dents on dis­tance learn­ing had been given the grants.

How­ever, the pay­ments were made in “good faith”, ac­cord­ing to Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Kirsty Wil­liams and came about as a re­sult of a “gen­uine mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the reg­u­la­tions”.

Mrs Wil­liams has said she does not think it “would be fair” to re­move the grant to cur­rent stu­dents who would “suf­fer fi­nan­cial loss or hard­ship as a re­sult of re­mov­ing ac­cess to the sup­port that they have been awarded to date” and that stu­dents who started their courses be­fore 2018 should con­tinue to re­ceive the grants un­til they fin­ish their stud­ies.

She adds there is no longer any “room for am­bi­gu­ity re­gard­ing the el­i­gi­bil­ity of stu­dents on dis­tance learn­ing courses”.

“New stu­dents un­der­tak­ing a des­ig­nated dis­tance learn­ing course in 2018-19 are not el­i­gi­ble for GFDs. How­ever, un­der the new, more gen­er­ous pack­age of stu­dent sup­port, part-time stu­dents will have ac­cess to main­te­nance grants and loans. This po­si­tion pro­vides par­ity of sup­port for full and part-time stu­dents.”

She says there will be an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to look at the pro­cesses which led to the grant over­pay­ment and “to pro­vide rec­om­men­da­tions on im­prove­ments to the sys­tems”.

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