BIS policy updates to DSAs: 10 July 2014

Today (Thursday 10th July 2014) the BIS Stakeholder Team released the following update on DSAs for 2015/16 entry. As the document cannot be sourced online, the update is quoted here in full below, from a circulated Word document. To receive updates on changes to DSAs directly from BIS, contact disabledstudentsallowances@bis.gsi.gov.uk

Policy updates to DSA for 2015/16 entry

Summary

On 7 April 2014, the Government announced measures to modernise the Disabled Student Allowance (DSA), subject to an Equality Impact Assessment.

These changes will affect disabled students applying for DSA for the first time in 2015/16 as outlined in a Written Ministerial Statement tabled by Universities and Science Minister David Willetts. Read the statement here.

The Government is working closely with stakeholders to inform its thinking on provision of support for disabled students, and to develop guidance, which will be published in autumn 2014.

Changes

The changes will apply to all full-time, part-time, full-time distance learning, and postgraduate students applying for DSA for the first time in respect of an academic year beginning on or after 1 September 2015.

Existing DSA students and DSA students for 2014/15 entry will remain on the current system of support for 2015/16.

DSA will continue to:

Fund a range of non-medical help (NMH) for disabled students, including students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs). Students should, however, expect to receive a greater degree of support from their HE institution than previously experienced as part of the rebalancing of responsibilities between government funding and HEIs. Details of the NMH support that will be funded through DSAs will be set out in guidance, which will be issued in September 2014.

Provide funding towards higher specification or higher cost computers where a student needs one solely by virtue of their disability.

Fund additional travel costs to attend the institution arising because of a disability

Fund the additional costs of specialist accommodation, apart from where they should be covered by another provider as a duty under the Equality Act

DSAs will no longer meet:

standard specification computers or the warranties and insurance associated with them

higher specification and/or higher cost computers required simply because of the way in which a course is delivered

Other support where a reasonable adjustment is expected to be put in place by the HE institution.

For the purposes of receiving DSAs, disability has been defined in relation to the definition provided by the Equality Act 2010 and that will be confirmed in the regulations. The Government will formalise a requirement for registration for those providers offering DSA study needs assessments and DSA assistive technology service providers.

Guidance

The Government has been engaging with HE sector specialists, student organisations and disability charities and listening to their views before developing the details of how these changes will be implemented.

Guidance setting out the details of the conditions under which DSA will apply and when the responsibility for support lies elsewhere will be published in September 2014, in parallel to the regulations and the Equality Analysis

Ahead of the guidance, the Government is continuing its discussions with stakeholders, and will provide updates to the sector.

Why change is required

The Government wants to modernise the DSA system to:

ensure that the public funding available for DSAs continues to be targeted at those with the greatest need

rebalance responsibilities between government funding and HEIs who are required to provide reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010

take into account technological advances and increases in societal use of technology

Changes to DSAs will ensure that all funding for higher education remains financially sustainable, whilst ensuring those most in need get the help they require
The Government has been working closely with stakeholders to inform its thinking on provision of support for disabled students and that dialogue continues.

Equality Analysis

In 2013, BIS began an Equality Analysis (formerly known as an Equality Impact Assessment) to ascertain what effect, if any, the changes will have on specific groups of people. That analysis continues and is being updated to:

incorporate discussions with the sector and evidence submitted by stakeholders

assess the impact of proposed policies on students with protected characteristics

seek ways of mitigating identified negative impact

Ministers will have due regard to the updated Equality Analysis before regulations implementing these policy changes are laid before Parliament in autumn 2014

DSA allowances

The maximum amounts of DSA available to students are not changing. The maximum DSA amounts available for the 2014/15 and 2015/16 academic years will be:

Type of student

Specialist equipment allowance

Non-medical helper allowance

General allowance

Full-time

Up to £5,212 for the whole course

Up to £20,725 a year

Up to £1,741 a year

Part-time

Up to £5,212 for the whole course

Up to £15,543 a year

Up to £1,305 a year

For postgraduates there is a single allowance of up to £10,362 a year.

Reasonable adjustment

Under the Equality Act 2010, HEIs have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students so they are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled students. DSAs will continue to be available to complement the support provided by HEIs.

Independent assessments

Students will continue to have their needs assessed by independent DSA study needs assessors. HEI reasonable adjustments may meet the needs of many disabled students, but DSA funding may still be available to complement HEI reasonable adjustments.

Students with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs), including dyslexia

Students with dyslexia will still be eligible to apply for and receive DSA funding. A comprehensive assessment of their needs will be undertaken, as now. The assessment of the complexity of individual need is the key to determining what sort of support students require and whether they receive this through DSAs, HEI reasonable adjustments or a mix of both. Where that division lies will be published in guidance. DSA study needs assessors will have regard to the guidance when making their recommendations for support.

HE sector funding

The Government provides annual funding to higher education institutions (HEIs), through the Disability element of the Student Opportunity Funding allocation of the Higher

Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) grant, to help them recruit and support disabled students. This funding rose to £15 million for 2013/14, an increase of £2 million on the previous year, which was been maintained for 2014/15.

HEIs with access agreements agreed with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) plans to spend £611m on access agreements in 2013/14 – rising to over £700 million by 2017/18 – on access and student success measures for students from disadvantaged groups including disabled people.

Contact

To receive updates on changes to DSAs please do so via the dedicated mailbox at disabledstudentsallowances@bis.gsi.gov.uk

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