Government breaks deferred loan repayments promise

Government breaks deferred loan repayments promise

Learners stuck with heavy loans debt but no qualifications, after a training provider went bust, are still being forced to make repayments, even though the government promised these would be deferred.

The situation has been brought to FE Week’s attention by nine learners affected by the demise of Hampshire-based Edudo Ltd, which we reported in February had left 100 students out of pocket and unable to complete courses after it entered voluntary liquidation in January.

This was one of a series of FE Week revelations that have demonstrated how hundreds of learners have been left high and dry in similar situations.

Our #SaveOurAdultEducation campaign for justice on their behalf appeared to have enjoyed some success in persuading the government to defer their repayments for a year.

But Lukasz Pacuk, a 34-year-old former carpentry learner with Edudo, has now told FE Week: “I still have a big loan, no certificate, and have lost three years of studying time. Nobody contacted us about stopping the loan payments.”

“These people [the eight other former Edudo learners] are in the same situation and are harmed like me,” he said.

“I’ve had a loss of health, stress, and money is still being taken out of my account.”

FE Week has seen evidence that the nine former learners, all from Poland, are still having loan repayments taken out of their pay packets. They claim to have had no contact from either the government or the Student Loans Company to discuss deferment arrangements.

The nine, who say they were part of a bigger group of around 70 people, explained they took out advance learner loans with Edudo in 2015, amounting to £4,170 each.

They began working towards an NVQ level two in wood occupations-site carpentry, but were later told to go for level three.

Mr Pacuk claimed that Edudo assessors said that as 80 per cent of the group did not speak English, the course would take longer than the original agreed finish date of June 2015.

After completing his NVQ training, Lukasz claimed he was visited by a number of assessors on his building site, with the latest one coming in October 2016, who told him he would receive his certificate in December.

But as revealed by FE Week, Edudo, which was allocated £500,500 in advanced learner loans by the ESFA as of September last year, sold its “assets and business” to Learning Republic Group Ltd in November 2016, before entering voluntary liquidation.

The Department for Education said it was unable to comment on individual cases, but would be seeking to address any issues identified.

Edudo’s former boss Ronan Smith, who didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment this week, is the only director listed on Companies House for Learning Republic Group.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency has previously told FE Week that Learning Republic is not a provider on the register of training organisations, and does not hold a loan agreement with them.

The provider therefore cannot complete training of former government-funded Edudo learners.

FE Week has been demanding that loans debt for learners such as Lukasz should be written off since January, when we revealed how hundreds had been left with debt but no qualifications through the demise of London-based John Frank Training. Similar problems followed when Edudo and Focus Training & Development Ltd went out of business.

FE Week saw a letter in April sent to a number of students affected by provider collapses, which told them that the government would “defer your repayment status for one year”.

The Student Loans Company declined to comment this week on why this has not happened for former Edudo learners.