EXTRA staff are to be drafted in to ensure vital support payments reach thousands of Scottish students.

On Wednesday, it emerged that some 6000 students at Scottish universities had yet to receive payments for living expenses such as rent and food, weeks after the start of term.

The Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS), which distributes the money, defended its role, saying delays only related to late applications for support.

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The body has already successfully processed the vast majority of the 150,000 applications it received this year before the June deadline.

However, student leaders called for an inquiry into why it has taken so long to process applications arriving after the deadline.

And the Scottish Government also came under fire for not dealing with the situation quickly enough. Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, said the opening hours of the SAAS helpline would be extended to provide answers for students concerned about the progress of their application. Staff from other teams would work with contact centre staff to boost the helpline, he said.

This follows the commitment that all current outstanding applications will be cleared by next week, with latest figures showing 2292 applications have been dealt with since Tuesday.