Social media activity of estranged students

Teuta Hoxha made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Roedd y cais yn llwyddiannus.

Dear Student Loans Company Limited,

I would like an answer to the following information requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

1. How many estranged students in total have had funding withdrawn, even if they have now been reinstated?

2. Did SLC in any capacity check these estranged students' social media accounts?

3. If yes, in what capacity?

4. Were the social media accounts searched via the official SLC social media channels or were new social media accounts created for this person? Or did employees use their own accounts to search the social media activity of the estranged students?

Yours faithfully,

Teuta Hoxha

SLC FOI Requests - Do Not Reply, Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

This is an automated response to let you know that your email has been
received by the Student Loans Company Limited ("SLC").

SLC's Freedom of Information Office is only able to deal with requests for
information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 ("FOIA"). If your
email relates to a request for information under the FOIA, a separate
acknowledgement will be issued with a request reference.
your email is in relation to a student finance application or account
enquiry, and you have provided sufficient details to identify your account,

your email will be passed to the relevant department. Alternatively,
please contact us using the contact details available at
https://www.slc.co.uk/contact.aspx.

If your email is not a customer enquiry then it has been passed to the
relevant department.

SLC's Freedom of Information Office is unable to advise response timescales

for other departments.

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

FOI Requests, Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

Dear Teuta Hoxha

Thank you for your email dated 08/08/2018.

Your request is being considered under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”).

Your request has been allocated reference 183-18.

We will respond to you under the terms of the FOIA and within 20 working
days.

We will contact you further for clarification of your request if this is
considered necessary.  

Yours sincerely

Louise Chapman | Legal Executive
Student Loans Company
100 Bothwell Street, Glasgow G2 7JD
e: 32080  t: 0141 306 2080

[1]www.slc.co.uk
Follow us at [2]Twitter/SLCcomms for the latest corporate news and updates

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

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FOI Requests, Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

Dear Teuta Hoxha

I am writing further to my e-mail of 14/08/2018, about your request
regarding social media activity of estranged students.

Your request is being handled as a request for information under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”). We are considering your request.

Although the FOIA carries a presumption in favour of disclosure, it
provides exemptions which may be used to withhold information in specified
circumstances. Some of these exemptions, referred to as ‘qualified
exemptions’, are subject to a public interest test. This test is used to
balance the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in
favour of withholding the information. The FOIA allows us to exceed the 20
working day response target where we need to consider the public interest
test fully.

The information which you have requested is being considered under the
exemption in section 36 of the Act, which relate to prejudice to the
effective conduct of public affairs. This is a qualified exemption and to
consider the public interest test fully we need to extend the 20 working
day response period. We now aim to let you have a full response by
21/09/2018.

If you have any questions about the handling of your information request
then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Louise Chapman | Legal Executive
Student Loans Company
100 Bothwell Street, Glasgow G2 7JD
e: 32080  t: 0141 306 2080

[1]www.slc.co.uk
Follow us at [2]Twitter/SLCcomms for the latest corporate news and updates

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

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FOI Requests, Y Cwmni Benthyciadau i Fyfyrwyr

Dear Teuta Hoxha

I refer to your recent email dated 08/08/2018 requesting the following
information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”):

“1. How many estranged students in total have had funding withdrawn, even
if they have now been reinstated?

2. Did SLC in any capacity check these estranged students' social media
accounts?

3. If yes, in what capacity?

4. Were the social media accounts searched via the official SLC social
media channels or were new social media accounts created for this person?
Or did employees use their own accounts to search the social media
activity of the estranged students?”

As advised in my email of 06/08/2018 consideration was being given to the
exemption under section 36 of the FOIA, and further time was needed to
consider the public interest test fully.  We have completed under
considerations and are in a position to respond to your questions in full.

Response

Question 1
150 students formed part of an exercise undertaken to understand the
extent to which the process of students claiming to be estranged is
susceptible to fraud.  However 8 of these students had already withdrawn
from their studies before this exercise began.

Evidence was requested from the students by an initial letter sent in
January 2018.  A chaser letter was issued 14 days later, advising the
students that they would no longer be eligible for funding if they did not
make contact within 14 days.  14 days thereafter a final decision letter
was issued that funding had been withdrawn.  

76 students had their funding withdrawn or delayed as part of this
exercise, of which 67 have since had full or part funding reinstated.  3
remain ineligible for any funding due to submitting fraudulent
information/evidence.

Questions 2 and 3
SLC did check the social media accounts of the students falling within
this exercise.  Brief checks of publically available social media content
were carried out to establish if any inconsistencies were identified which
may suggest the estrangement status was inaccurate.

This exercise commenced in January 2018, with the 150 students sampled
having declared that they were estranged from their parents.  The data
protection statements available at the point of application stated that
SLC may use personal information for a number of purposes, including to
detect, investigate and prevent crime including fraud.  
Question 4
The searches were made via SLC’s Counter Fraud Services Team’s dedicated
Facebook page.  Employees do not use their own social media accounts.
Internal review process

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review.

Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date
of receipt of the response to your original request and should be
addressed to the Freedom of Information Office, Student Loans Company
Limited, 100 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, G2 7JD,   Email:
[SLC request email].  Please remember to quote the reference number
above in any future communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision.  The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House  
Water Lane  
Wilmslow  
Cheshire  
SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely

Louise Chapman | Legal Executive
Student Loans Company
100 Bothwell Street, Glasgow G2 7JD
e: 32080  t: 0141 306 2080

[1]www.slc.co.uk
Follow us at [2]Twitter/SLCcomms for the latest corporate news and updates

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

References

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