Disabled students who have started this year at university will have been affected by the highly controversial changes to disabled student allowances (DSA’s) which the government has decided to introduce after a consultation.
The changes were decided to try and make disabled students more independent whilst at university. The changes were designed to make institutions provide more funding and support towards their disabled students rather than the students having to rely on DSA’s funding and support. These changes are currently set to go ahead after a consultation with students, institutions and support providers. The results were that those consulted decided that institutions could do more to support their students. Those consulted included current students, staff, parents, HE institutions and support providers.
Many institutions have now put in place the resources to help their students receive the support they need. As institutions are now required to support students who require basic support, specialist support is still available through DSA funding. Institutions are now expected to make reasonable adjustments for all disabled students. Institutions are expected to make provisions for student printing and where possible make it accessible to disabled students. In case where the institution cannot provide sufficient services, a printer may be given to the student. If this is the case the student may receive a multifunctioning device (Printer and scanner) along with a consumables’ allowance. Institutions have been tasked with providing as much support as possible to their disabled students, using the DSA system where support is outside of their scope. In some cases the DSA and institution may discuss who’s responsible for the support or equipment in question. Depending on the outcome a number of appeals may be required before a final decision is made. This decision will determine if the student needs the support or equipment due to their disability and if so who is responsible for it- the institution or DSA funding.
The government would like to see the majority of support and equipment need for all disabled students be provided by their relevant institution and the DSA system to be used when an excess of funding is needed for certain equipment and support. The DSA system in affect will be a “top up” system. The government wants to use the DSA system in a fairer more cost effective way given that the number of disabled students heading to university is steadily increasing this is to try and eliminate some of the costs the DSA system is currently being used to pay for. It wants to see the system used as a way of paying for specialist support and equipment.
Basic support and equipment the government sees as entry level or standard should only be funded through DSA’s if the institution cannot provide the student with equipment or support they need through their own standard services and then it will only be granted if the student is seen as an exceptional case. The DSA funding will only be put in place for computers, printers and other support and equipment if the case is seen as an exception.
Each category is designed to pay for a certain aspect of the student’s recommended support. The specialist equipment category is for computers, furniture, other equipment and any assistive software the student may need. Whilst the non-medical helper allowance is for the human support aspect of the recommendations, this allowance is split between the four bands discussed below with being used to provide the support recommended such as mobility support or note taking both as electronic notes and handwritten notes. The general allowance is for anything not covered by the first two categories such as a consumables allowance. If the student is recommended transport they will be given an uncapped travel allowance, the recommendation will quote the price per journey and the assumed number of journeys on a weekly basis. The student does have the ability to ask for this to be altered if the circumstances arise i.e. quote is for four days but the course is five days a week. The student may be asked to contribute a stated amount towards the costs or they may have to pay the cost before being reimbursed by student finance. If this is the case it is likely the student will be billed on a monthly basis with the reimbursement covering the cost minus any contributions the student has to make (if any) per invoice. This will also be minus the cost of public transport equivalent e.g. weekly or monthly ticket.
The government has been considering altering the current disabled student allowances system for the academic year 2016/17 these alterations will only affect new students and not those continuing their studies.
DSA funding can be used to cover the costs of travel to and from the institution to the student’s home address, if a different mode of transport other than public transport is required due to their disability. If the student is to make these journeys by taxi then an account should be set up with an appropriate taxi firm. Payment will be made direct to the company on receipt of an invoice. In some cases the student may be responsible for paying the invoice before they receive a reimbursement from student finance. The reimbursement will take into account any contribution the student must put towards the overall cost. In this case the student will receive the invoice and will be responsible for acquiring a receipt from the taxi firm as evidence that it has been paid. The contribution the student will be expected to make will be decided according to their student finance application and the quotes received by the assessor.
Funding cannot be put towards the cost of accommodation if the accommodation in question is owned, maintained or controlled by the institution. Funding available if the accommodation is private or where costs are incurred due to the student’s disability. Any additional costs to the institution should not be passed on to the student in question at any point. The assessment should also take into the consideration of the student moving between institution owned accommodation and private accommodation. In certain instances it may be possible for the student to remain in institution owned accommodation for the duration of their course if they have a permanent disability.
The DSA funding does also take into consideration the cost of consumables that the student may incur if the student needs a hard copy that is additional to that of an able bodied student or they have been recommended a printer or the student already owns a suitable printer. Additional consumables if required can be funded but only if justified and the usage is required by the student. If the student requires funding for books, DSA funding is only available if the books required cannot be supplied in a suitable format. Funding is not available for core or additional books as these are a cost incurred by all students. The student should speak to their institution about getting the books they need in a suitable format.
When considering important books for its students, institutions should consider accessibility and have books available through electronic sources, scanned copies or made available from the book publisher. DSA funding should only be made available for non-core text books when they are essential and unavailable through other sources.
Students who have a disability such as diabetes and require a fridge to store their medication can acquire a fridge through DSA funding but only where it is essential and their current facilities such as a communal fridge are unsuitable for the purposes of storage.
Exceptional cases are heard on a case by case basis and are dealt with by the exceptional case procedure team (ECP). This where a conclusion cannot be reached and the equipment is only available by exception, if agreed by the ECP then student will receive the equipment otherwise the student can appeal if it is not approved.
More information can be found at: http://www.dsa-qag.org.uk/document-hierarchy/assessors-tab/2002-dsa-guidance-new-dsa-students-in-ay-2016-17-0916/file
It is still not known how these changes will affect students who become disabled during their course, it also remains to be seen how these changes will affect future students as they look towards going to university. To summarise the information above the government wants HE providers to take over and fund the cost of basic support as well as equipment. Anything above this the DSA will fund but in some cases equipment will only be considered on a case by case basis and then the HE provider may be responsible. I hope this information has been useful to you in explaining the new changes that the government has implemented.
Further technical details of the key changes that will take affect from the 2016/17 academic year:
The government has set some key changes that will take affect from the 2016/17 academic year:
The government may announce more changes as and when they are agreed.