Late student's mother says receiving the letter was 'extremely upsetting' as SLC blames it on 'human error'

The Student Loans Company (SLC) has had to issue an apology after sending out a statement of debt for almost £12,000 to an undergraduate – who died ten years ago.

Tania Scott, who was aged 20, was studying Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Leeds when, in 2005, she was killed in a taxi crash in Brazil. Her father, Guardian journalist and ‘pioneer of online journalism’, Noll Scott, who was aged 51, also lost his life in the accident.

Citing ‘human error’, the SLC said it requires a death certificate to strike-off any outstanding debt and said the error meant no such request was despatched after Ms Scott’s death, reported Times Higher Education.

The annual statement – which was received by Ms Scott’s mother, Patricia Leon Jones – outlined how the late undergrad’s annual interest accruals had pushed her total balance up from around £7,500 to a current amount of £11,973.

Ms Leon Jones didn’t even know of her daughter’s student loan until she received the statement from the SLC.

Describing it as “extremely upsetting”, the late student’s mother added: “It is really disturbing if you have dealt with somebody’s death in tragic circumstances – and come to terms with your grief – and you are suddenly faced with them being ‘resurrected’ with this debt around their neck.”

An SLC spokesman said the company offered its “sincerest apologies to Ms Scott’s family for any distress and inconvenience caused.”

The company added: “SLC was notified of Ms Scott’s death in 2005 by her local authority.

“At this time, we advised the local authority to request a copy of the death certificate when they wrote to the family so that the outstanding balance could be written-off.

“All address details on Ms Scott’s account were amended to prevent further correspondence being issued. However, due to a human error, Ms Scott’s deceased status was not recorded and no direct request from SLC for a copy of the death certificate was issued.”

Therefore, the spokesman explained, “the address details on the account were unfortunately reverted to those previously held and a statement was issued.”

The spokesman confirmed Ms Scott’s account status has since been updated and that, if a copy of the death certificate is provided, her balance will be cleared.