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Maharey Focused Finding Solutions For WINZ Loans

Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says he is determined to do everything possible to ensure students affected by the WINZ loans processing backlog can access their loans.

Mr Maharey said an evaluation to determine how the problems with loans have developed will be conducted next month once students were in classes. In the meantime WINZ staff have been instructed to make additional assistance available to students caught up by the delays.

"I have directed WINZ to take a number of steps which should help the students who are affected.

"The length of time students are spending attempting to get through on the 0800 line has been too long. To lessen waiting times extra staff have been hired and WINZ is working with student associations to publicise off-peak times when call volumes are likely to be significantly less.

"The 0800 phone line has been opened on Sundays exclusively for loans processing and 60 additional telephone lines have been added to the system. Computers are now staffed from 7am to 10pm Monday to Friday.

"WINZ Student Services outreach centres and staff on campus will be able to arrange for students in financial difficulty to receive Special Needs Grants. These emergency advances will be refunded by recipients once their loans are cleared.

"From this week staff will be placed on 23 campuses nationwide to ensure that when applications are received at the National Student Services Centre they can be processed.

"Technical support staff have been stationed at WINZ's National Student Services Centre in Palmerston North so that they can quickly respond to any problems affecting the computerised Verification of Study (VOS) process. Staff in my Ministerial Office have also been working with institutions to iron out any procedural problems which may have been affecting the VOS process.

"A plain-English guide to getting a loan has been sent to student associations and MP's offices this week and a special hot line for student associations to directly contact the national Student Services Centre for help to resolve particular issues is operating.

"Fixing this problem is a top priority. Students and their parents deserve to know that I am giving it all the attention it deserves", Steve Maharey said.

Mr Maharey thanked both students and institutions for the goodwill they had demonstrated.

"People know that this problem is not of the new Government's making. Our focus is on doing the best for students", Steve Maharey said.

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