Tag Archives: JobCentre

Guide to deferring a mortgage-style student loan repayment

Types of student loans

If you took out a student loan while taking a university or college course that began before September 1998, you will have been given a loan known as a ‘mortgage style’ or ‘fixed-term’ loan. (Loans taken out after this point are known as ‘income-contingent loans’.)

Mortgage-style loans are paid directly to the Student Loans Company (SLC), the public-sector body that provides student loans, unlike income-contingent loans – for which HMRC collects repayments.

Interest rates on mortgage-style loans are typically higher than those for income-contingent loans because they are linked to retail price index (RPI) inflation. Interest on mortgate-style loans stood at 3.6% in January 2013, whereas interest on income-contingent loans in the same month was 1.5%.

Deferring repayments

You’ll usually have to repay mortgage-style loans through monthly instalments by direct debit. However, you may be able to defer repayments for one year at a time if you earn £27,813 or less per year, before tax or National Insurance are deducted from your pay. Repayments on income-contingent loans are deducted automatically from your wages and can’t be deferred.

If you’re eligible, you can defer payments by completing a form issued by the SLC and returning it by post. The SLC sends deferment forms directly to customers by post. If you have deferred another repayment at an earlier date, the SLC states that it will send you a form about two months before your next payment falls due.

What do you need to complete the deferment form?

The SLC requires you to complete, sign and date the form and post it directly to them with evidence of your ‘current means of subsistence.’ If you are claiming benefits, the SLC says that it will accept any one of the following pieces of evidence:

  • A Benefits Agency/Jobcentre stamp on the deferment application form.
  • A copy of a current benefit agency book confirming the customer’s name, address, date and the amount of benefit received.
  • A Benefits Agency letter confirming the customer’s name, date, type and amount received.
  • A recent bank statement showing benefits payments being made to the customer’s account.

The evidence needed if you are employed, self-employed, travelling, a student or living on unearned income is listed here.  According to the SLC, you’ll automatically be sent a new deferment form if your application has an obvious mistake – alternatively, you can contact the SLC to request a new form on 0141 243 3902.

At the time of publishing the DWP had declined to comment.

Flexible Support Fund: how new is the new Travel for Interview Scheme?

In my last post, I uploaded the response to the DWP to my FOI request about TIS funding.

The letter also confirms that the Travel to Interview Scheme was officially terminated on 4th April 2011 – to be replaced by what is now called the Flexible Support Fund (FSF).

The Citizens Advice Bureau site also explains what new Flexible Support Fund is. (For an enlarged version, click on the image.)

A response to an FOI request requesting clarity about the rules governing the decision making for eligibility to FSF, dated June/July 2011, is available on WhatDoTheyKnow.com, and makes interesting reading.

What we now know is that, although it is up to the JobCentre Plus advisers whether to use the Flexible Support Fund (FSF) to subsidise a jobseeker’s travel to an interview, it is the District Manager who determines how the Flexible Support Fund is spent locally. Guidance notes for JobCentre advisers are also provided for reference.

Flexible Support Fund – the decision making process (FOI)

Flexible Support Fund Adviser Guidance

Are these FSF rules any different from the old Travel for Interview Scheme (TIS)? Or is the FSF just a renaming of TIS, only with less money in the pot?

Any takers to investigate?

TIS investigation kick-off: an FOI request to the DWP

To kick of the investigation about funds allocated to the Travel for Interview (TIS) scheme, I searched the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) website for any publicly available information.

Some government departments, such as the Department of Health, offer helpful guidance on how to contact them for enquiries, including a customer service telephone number, but searching for information on the Department of Work and Pensions site can be more like a needle-in-a-haystack case.

My search finally led me to the What We Spend page, which published data, in CSV format, on DWP’s payments over £25,000. The data is broken down by month, starting from April 2010, the first month of the 2010/2011 tax year. A PDF of explanatory notes on the monthly payment spreadsheets is also available.

I downloaded some of the spreadsheets to check their content, filtered the data to show only “TIS” (travel for interview) under Expense Type and was delighted to discover that, this way, I could easily obtain the total monthly sums JobCentres spent on TIS.  But I also realised that data alone would not help me draw many useful conclusions as to which parts of the country had the highest number of jobseekers dependent on the scheme to travel to interviews.

Did a breakdown by region exist of TIS funds allocated to JobCentres round the country? In order to create those spreadsheets on their website, the DWP must have originally had more location-specific figures from JobCentres, which had then been collated into the monthly reports.

I used the email address published at the bottom of the list of spreadsheets to ask them the question. The information turned out to be available only under a Freedom of Information request, so I sent it out as one.

Below is the response to my FOI request from the DWP’s communications team:

DWP’s response to FOI re Regional Breakdown of spend on Travel to Interview Scheme 2010/2011

I will now be working on analysing the regional breakdown of TIS funds provided by the DWP, while I research what data maps are available on poverty/deprivation or unemployment rates in the UK. My idea is that we can link those with the TIS figures we now have. Results will be published in a future post, so watch this space.

You are welcome to join the investigation at any stage and contribute in any way you like. Perhaps you are interested in data and knows how to use data visualisation tools? Maybe you’re good with spreadsheets and would like to help clean data. Or you are a skilled web detective and would like to suggest links that could speed up our research?

Please Help Me Investigate. Get in touch.

UPDATE ON OCT. 12, 2011:  I have moved the information on the new Flexible Support Fund (FSF) to a separate post, so that we can investigate it in more detail.