Hardship scheme is 'ridiculous' (1)

August 6, 2004

The article "Hardship cash funds 'sprees'" (July 23) stressed that many applicants for such funds are not interviewed, the implication being that if they were, the number of fraudulent cases would drop. Afraid not. Such interviews usually involve the interviewer trying to use their discretion rather than sticking to agreed criteria.

However well intentioned, the interviewer is more likely to be swayed by the salesmanship of the applicant than by the facts. Tears or appearing helpless can be very effective.

The best way to avoid abuse is to distribute hardship funds according to income, not expenditure. To do otherwise encourages frivolous spending. For example, to give support to those with high rents can encourage a relaxed attitude to housing costs.

Focusing on income is not only fairer but easier to check, as your reports on student manipulation of bank accounts demonstrate. While there needs to be some discretion for dealing with crises, these should be exceptional - the lone parent about to be evicted, for instance. Otherwise funds should be distributed according to known and clearly identifiable income.

Ray Angel
Former director of student affairs
London Guildhall University

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