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More than 50% of eligible students are missing out on the DSA

As this university year draws to a close for some, the next few months will begin the journey into higher education for many others. UCAS applications submitted, Student Finance England application pending, accommodation already sorted, but have you applied for DSA?

The Disabled Students' allowance has been established for over twenty-five years, offering additional support for higher education students in the form of an equipment allowance, non-medical helper allowance and a general allowance. This Government grant is aimed towards helping a student meet the additional study costs or expenses they may face as a direct result of a mental health problem, long term illness or any other disability.

However, despite the DSAs long-standing, it is believed that over half of eligible students miss out on this widely available fund due to poor awareness, such as, what DSAs is for and whether or not they are eligible to apply for it, and confusion over what is meant by disability.

A 2019 report from the Department for Education in England found that some students were under the impression that DSAs were only awarded if a student needed specialist equipment or had a physical disability. Some students reported they had been deterred from applying because they had conditions such as epilepsy, chronic pain and mental health conditions, believing these not to fit the bracket of eligibility.

Under the Equality act of 2010, the definition of disability can be applied to anyone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial or long-term negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activities. For students applying for DSAs confused over what is meant by disability the list Includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Physical conditions, for example- visual impairment, hearing impairment and mobility issues
  • Learning difficulties, such as Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD
  • Mental Health conditions like anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder
  • Long term health conditions such as cancer, heart disease or HIV

The confusion about what the DSAs can offer can also be a deterrent for eligible students applying, the Department for Education report (2019) found that of the students that had considered applying, 36% ultimately decided against it due to them believing the support they would receive would not be worth the hassle of the application process. One of the areas the DSAs covers is the Non-Medical helpers’ allowance, such as specialist one to one study skills tutors and specialist mentors. a report by the institute for public policy research 2017 found that 86% of universities in England reported an increase in the demand for disability services between 2012-2017. With such a high demand on university wellbeing services for additional support, students with an eligible disability that have not applied may find themselves waiting a long time for these facilities.

For students in Higher Education, receiving support from the Disability Students’ Allowance can make a substantial difference to their learning and education. That difference can be determined on whether a student has decided to apply for support with their disability or not. Factors to consider are the following.

  • There is no deadline for DSA applications, but it can take up to 14 weeks to get the support in place
  • Students are entitled to the allowance regardless of the institution they attend
  • The allowance is not means-tested or repayable
  • Students needing high-spec software are expected to pay the first £200 – the minimum cost any student would incur when purchasing a computer.

For more information visit the Yorlinc homepage for testimonials from students who have received support from the DSA, covering a wide variety of disabilities.

- Victoria Cawthorn, Assistive Technology Trainer

18th June, 2020