Only 29% of disabled students in England receive DSA allowance – analysis | Disability

Support for students with disabilities must be improved, the government has urged, after analysis showed less than a third are in receipt of Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) intended to help them access and thrive in higher education.

Only 29% of students in England and Wales with a known disability received the allowance in 2019/20, report says, while those who went through the application process complained of bureaucracy, long delays , inconsistent quality of support and a lack of communication. .

“A nightmare,” said one student, “a full-time job,” said another, describing the challenge of coordinating support that is rarely in place at the start of a course and can take months to obtain, delaying the progress of students and putting them at an unfair disadvantage.

Former Paralympic swimmer Lord Chris Holmes’ report describes the DSA as “a jewel of politics”, but too many potential beneficiaries are unaware of its existence. He also said the 30-page application and lengthy assessment process is daunting and that “the administrative burden can be a barrier to study rather than the support provided by the program.”

The Daily Subsistence Allowance is intended to cover education-related costs that a student may incur due to a mental health issue, long-term illness or other disability. It depends on individual needs rather than household income and does not have to be repaid.

From the next academic year, undergraduate and postgraduate students can receive up to £25,575 a year to pay for specialist equipment or non-medical aids, for example a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter , a note taker or additional travel expenses incurred as a result of a disability.

Based on data from the Student Loans Company, the report found that 75,900 students from England and Wales received a DSA in 2019/20. Yet figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that the total number of students with a known disability – who were domiciled in England and Wales and were studying at a university in one of the four countries original – was 261,620.

The SLC said there are a number of reasons why students may not apply or be eligible for living allowance. Students must be eligible for student funding and they must have a disability defined under the Equality Act. He also pointed out that they may not need DSA support as their university may already have arrangements in place.

An SLC spokesperson said reforms were already underway to improve and speed up the DSA application process. “This will remove major pain points from the customer journey, provide the student with a single point of contact and support throughout the process, as well as contractual control to ensure consistent quality of service.”

The Holmes report makes 20 recommendations, including an awareness campaign for schools, a digital ‘passport’ to carry from school to higher education and beyond to work, greater flexibility in provision and improved communication and quality assurance processes.

Lord Holmes, who won nine gold, five silver and one bronze medal at four Paralympic Games, said: “DSA has such inherent possibilities, to enable, to empower all of our young people with disabilities. When it works well, it really works.

“As this report illustrates, with a series of carefully considered changes, DSA could go even further, enabling hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities to realize their potential.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: ‘There are valid reasons why some students with disabilities would not need to apply for a DSA, for example because their needs have already been fully met by their university. Work is underway with the Student Loans Company to improve the student experience, making the application process easier and working to shorten the journey from application to support received.

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