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[personal profile] natalyad
Why do I know anything about these DSA changes?
I am a disabled students' adviser in my day job. I am one of the DSA nerds on my team.

I researched DSA vs university funding provision systems for one of the four assignments 6 months ago for my National Association of Disability Practitioners (NADP) accreditation which I passed. See resources at the end for more info.

I am also a deaf and disabled person. I received DSA between 1996 and 1998 then again between 1999 and 2004 and I've used AtW the employment 'equivalent' on and off since 2007 for my sins.

Update: I should make it clearer here that the views I express on this blog are mine alone and do not represent either my employer or any professional organisations like the NADP that I am part of. Any mistakes are also mine and mine alone

What's happened to DSA today?
David Willets made a Press Release on behalf of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) dept announcing some fairly severe and unexpected changes to Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA) funding. While not unexpected in principle, it is a sudden surprise landed on us today.

David Willets's Press Release: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/higher-education-student-support-changes-to-disabled-students-allowances-dsa

There is also a lesser propagated useful details PDF giving more detail of DSA changes at http://www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/media/744663/ssin_01-15_apr2014.pdf

It is useful to know about the new SFE Non-Medical Help Services Reference Manual for some context later at http://www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/media/705785/non_medical_help_manual_v6.pdf

The press release alone is vague as all heck. The details document + NMH reference manual clarifies some things and leaves some stuff vague. There is also the issue of how HEIs interpret this, how HEIs feedback on this and how disabled students/people and Disability Advisers, needs assessors, support workers etc also feed back and interpret this.

There is some discussion on #DSA on twitter that I know about.

What HAS been cut from DSA funding
While the cuts are sudden and are genuinely worrying, there is already misinformation out there which I feel should be avoided where possible as it won't help any one and will panic people.

Main things which have been cut from DSA funding:

  • Computers and standard software e.g. office for students who don't have a direct disability reason for needing them. Plus some stuff about no longer DSA funding specialist computers for academic reasons e.g. macs cos course is delivered on macs and warranties.

  • Some level of cuts to DSA provision for students with a specific learning difficulty e.g. Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. Only provision for those whose needs are complex whatever complex means - that hasn't been defined.

  • Accommodation costs e.g. difference between non-ensuite and ensuite for say a wheelchair user or someone needing other adaptations where the only rooms possible are more expensive. This probably means universities can't charge more in their accommodation.

  • Most of the general allowance reclaimables: Internet, photocopying, printing printer cartridges, batteries etc. This will probably exist for specialist stuff like Braille paper but details are not yet available.

  • Non specialist non medical helper costs. Specifically bands 1 and 2 in the Non Medical Help Services Reference Manual. This includes practical/library/lab assistants, scribes, readers, sighted guides, proofreaders at band 1. "Study assistant", Exam support worker, and manual notetaker at band 2. This probably means that HEIs will have to fund these for a disabled/DSA student where there is disability-related need and/or do more to reduce the need for these by most students (anticipatory reasonable adjustments)


What has *NOT* been cut from DSA funding

  • Band 3 NMH support such as Communication Support Worker (CSW), Electronic Notetaker, Specialist transcription services (handwriting or audio to typed text), mobility trainer for partially-sighted and blind people.

  • Band 4 NMH support such as specialist 1:1 mentor and study skills/coaching support, BSL interpreters, Language support for deaf students, assistive technology training

  • Non banded NMH support such as Speech to Text Reporters, lipspeakers etc who don't fit into bandings at this time.

  • All DSA support for students with SpLDs. We don't know details yet, but complex is not defined and 1:1 study support probably counts as complex.
  • All computers on DSA. I suspect a lot will go, but students who are blind or partially sighted and need JAWS, Zoomtext or similar will probably be OK. As will students who may need a light weight machine or ergonomic equipment. I can't be 100% sure, as no one knows much yet, but these are likely...

What else should people note
BIS are cutting DSA funding for Stuff.

Note "DSA Funding". Not the reductions of obligation for Stuff to be funded. That is an important distinction.

It is apparent BIS want Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to fund some of this stuff that has been cut as part of their duties under both anticipatory reasonable adjustments and 'reactive' reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010.

I know universities don't always fund or stuff disability access stuff that they ought to and anticipatory adjustments are patchy. I know this is worrying for people starting courses from 2015. I think this is justified concern - we just don't know the details yet as HEIs haven't had a chance to consider this change and the implications.

Current students and those starting in 2014-15 will retain currentish levels of DSA support.

Questions? I'll update these as I get them round the web
If you want to ask me questions email me on natalya dot dell @ gmail dot com, tweet @natalyadell or post a comment in here. I will be working all day tomorrow but will try and answer questions when I can.

Received so far:
Question 1.
Does double-funding as described "We no longer expect assistive technology and non-medical helper support to be provided for the same purpose. This is regarded as double-funding." mean that there are implications for notetaking alongside BSL interpreting or lipspeaking?

I don't think so but I can flag this up with people giving feedback (one of whom is an ex BSL interpreter who "gets" deaf stuff).

Communication support provides 'realtime' access in appropriate modality of say BSL interpretation or lipspeaking (rare in DSA). Notetakers manual and electronic provide post-session details to work on for revision or following up. It is possible for a student to be recommended BSL terp + electronic notetaking cos of the quality of electronic notes at 120wpm and already in text.

Question 2.
Will the increase in focus on 'anticipatory adjustments' such as providing notes, allowing or making recordings mean notetaking is not approved.

I don't know to be sure. It may be that an HEI has to fund manual notetaking for some students. It might be that deaf students get electronic notetaking which is a band 3 provision which is increasingly common alongside STTR cos manual notetaking isn't deemed to be comprehensive enough for more severely/profoundly deaf students.

I have seen university departments fund a student to take "good notes" and be paid to have their notes copied at the end of each session and made available to anyone on that course. Not only works for many disabled students, but those who break arms or can't get into university cos of illness etc. This might suddenly become a popular solution. Australia often caption whole lectures and upload transcript + realtime captions to recordings of lectures as an anticipatory measure.

Question 3.
My child is starting university in September will these changes affect them.

No, only students from 2015 entry onwards.

I also can't say exactly HOW these changes from 2015 will be interpreted until we see the DSA Regulations (2014's regulations are at http://www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/media/708804/disabled_students__allowances_14-_15.pdf ) are published and then how DSA Needs Assessors, the funding bodies and BIS interpret them and how disability advisers learn to work with them.


Question 4.
Does this mean a deaf student who needs manual notetaking won't get it any more?

My interpretation is no. I think a DSA needs assessment will make the recommendation and it will be the Higher Education Institution (HEI) responsibility to fund it or an alternative that meets the student's needs. For some students who get notetakers an alternative might be fine, for others e.g. deaf students it will probably need to be notes but I don't know what creative ideas people will come up with.

This does put the onus onto the student to enforce this, but that is somewhat like now anyway and like Access to Work is. Disabled students' advisers should be able to help to some degree. I hope HEIs won't need complaints to put support in place. There are other agencies like the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) who do have teeth and will use them against any HEI deemed not to have met their duties under the Equality Act. Students can also get advice from law firms like Unity Law who I used to sue HMRC last year.

Question 5.
Will these changes result in HEIs refusing places to some disabled students because of the potential costs involved?

I don't think so, by and large anyway. Some students go over DSA funding already and HEIs have to look for additional or alternative funding and can't refuse a student their place. I won't say this has never and does never happen not least cos I'm seeing reports on twitter from those it has happened to, but it shouldn't be happening now and it shouldn't happen from 2015 onwards either.

If you believe you have been denied a place then a written complaint to the head of department you applied to and someone in registry or admissions is probably the way to go. Student advice services may be able to help you.

Question 6.
What happens if I am offered a place but no one will fund the disability support I need?

Universities and DSA will only fund academic disability-related support costs which enable you to access any part of academic life like teaching, online environment, advice services, graduation, exams etc. Sometimes universities don't fund stuff that probably could be deemed reasonable adjustments. Sometimes students get caught in a "we don't fund this" gap between employers and HEIs which is also rubbish.

If you feel you need support that is not being provided or funded, the disability advice service is the first port of call. If we don't know your notetakers notes are rubbish, or your academic department aren't providing what is required we can't help. Communicate with us and let us know what you want (politely please, we're only human!) and we will do our best. If you feel you can't get a prompt (within a few days) response from your adviser due to limited staffing, then that is worth making a complaint about as it won't be frontline people's fault and they may need to consider improving provision.

If you are unhappy with your disability adviser or feel he/she doesn't know enough, you can politely ask to be transferred to an alternative who knows more about your impairment needs and funding. If you are still unhappy making a complaint in writing is probably the best option, ensure the head of your potential or existing academic department is copied in.

If you feel people have tried their best but your support is still poor, it is worth thanking the people who have tried in your complaint so that the focus is made on the poor provision and not staff who are only doing their best.

Most universities or their unions have a student advice service, they may be worth contacting for advice about any issue you are unhappy with.

Disability Rights UK has a student telephone and email helpline which I would contact in any instance http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/how-we-can-help/helplines/disabled-students-helpline

Unity Law has some template letters you can sign up to their website to access at http://www.unity-law.co.uk/media_area/documents.htm these are a good first step and you can ask their advice as well.

Question 7.
What advice would you give to 2015 entry students about this?

Don't panic. It is too soon to panic. Continue as you were, focus on your studies and choosing the right course for you when the time comes.

The announcement and changes to DSA as they stand now are almost certainly not going to be what's in place in 2015. This is a certain amount of political posturing between BIS and Universities in the UK and we don't know how it'll settle out in the short and longer term.

Your best bet is to apply to institutions as usual and if you're worried contact disability services at that time with specific info about yourself and your disability needs to ask how non-DSA funded support is provided.

Disability support may not have the answers early on in your application but how you are responded to will give you an idea how how likely they are to be helpful.

Again I think the disability rights helpline may be invaluable as an independent source of advice.


Useful resources
Hyde, M. et al (2009) The experiences of deaf and hard of hearing students at a
Queensland university 1985-2005. Higher Education Research & Development (28), 1.
[Online] Available at:<http://www.researchgate.net/publication/41092018_the_experiences_of_deaf_and_h>
[Accessed 08-JUL-2013]

Wright, B. (2005) Accommodating Disability in Higher Education: a closer look at the
evidence for a mainstream framework of learning support. Research in Post-
Compulsory Education, (10):1.

The Snowdon Trust (2013) The Snowdon 2013 Survey Report [Online] Available at:
<http://www.snowdontrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/snowdon-survey-2013-> [Accessed 11-JUL-2013]

Date: 2014-04-08 06:36 pm (UTC)
baratron: (Default)
From: [personal profile] baratron
Am I likely to lose my laboratory assistance from 2016 onwards? Lab assistants seem to come into Band 1 for Non-Medical Helpers, even though they are relatively specialist professionals (e.g. I need someone with a minimum of a good first degree in Chemistry or Biochemistry who has been specifically trained in certain techniques).

Date: 2014-04-08 11:18 pm (UTC)
baratron: (goggles)
From: [personal profile] baratron
That's not what the documents say, though. David Willetts said "I announced earlier this year that maximum grants for full-time, part-time and postgraduate students with disabilities will be maintained at 2014 to 2015 levels in 2015 to 2016." and later "Existing DSA students and DSA students for 2014 to 2015 entry will remain on the current system of support for 2015 to 2016."

That's why I'm concerned about 2016-17. It doesn't seem to have occurred to them that students who began in 2014-15 won't have finished by then, or that students who began earlier and are on part-time courses (for health reasons!) won't have finished either!

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