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Disabled Students Allowance

forgoodnesssakeforgoodnesssake Posts: 244Member Pioneering
edited May 2017 in Education and learning
My 19 year old son will be going to university in September to study maths and yesterday he had his DSA assessment.  This support funding system has been severely attacked by the current government and so the result is that a student with cerebral palsy who cannot walk, has very poor hand control so cannot use a pen or standard computer equipment, cannot feed himself AND has no speech so uses hi tech and low tech AAC (communication aids) will get a few bits of software, a computer and a special joystick and one hour a week of mentoring.  All the rest of his academic support (he will need a note taker, page turner, practical assistant to carry stuff for him and plug in his equipment etc etc) must be paid for by the university.
There is a a notional DSA budget of up to £21k per year for non-medical helpers, but this has now been squeezed and squashed so that it only covers the most specialist support (like BSL signing and some sort of specialist report writers etc) so the most physically disabled students, with a lot of support needs of a more practical nature, are totally dependent on their chosen university to support them.  Has Scope tried to do anything about this?


  • GeoarkGeoark Posts: 1,154Community champion Pioneering
    edited August 2017

    The situation for disabled students is a little more complicated and the changes for DSA have been well documented and advertised.

    The short version is depending on individual circumstances your son could be entitled to benefits not normally available to full time university students, and some of the issues mentioned above should be covered by the University.

    @BenefitsTrainingCo may be able to offer some advice on what you  have said, or signpost where you can get more specialist advice.

    In the mean time you might find this helpful:

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • forgoodnesssakeforgoodnesssake Posts: 244Member Pioneering
    Thanks...i don't agree however that "the changes for DSA have been well documented and advertised"  I have just read the 92 page Guidance to Practitioners and even in that there are vaguenesses and ambiguities that make it very hard to work out what you can actually ask for or expect.
    The wider public have heard of DSA and assume that a student like my son will get lots of support...and so when we try to explain the reality to them they are shocked.  Most people in this country have no idea what has happened to support for disabled students.  I have spoken to the Disabled students Helpline who were very helpful in describing that there is an Exceptional Case Process, which our assessor had singularly failed to mention.  We are now trying to go down that route for 3 specific things.  And yes he may be entitled to some benefits that other students are not, but he also has many more expenses that they do not have.  And interestingly, the Special Support Element which can be awarded to students who qualify for funding from SFE and get PiP, is then basically deducted from their original loan award!!  My son was awarded an additional £561 on top of his loan amount, but then his original loan amount was reduced by £400!  I have spent a long time on the phone with SFE who have confirmed that this is some sort of adjustment they make...but the person on the phone was at a loss to actually explain the rationale!!
  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    edited May 2017
    The maintenance loan isn't affected by the special support element. 
  • GeoarkGeoark Posts: 1,154Community champion Pioneering
    @forgoodnesssake the change in policy was announced in April 2014 for implementation in 2015/16 but changed to 2016/17 to allow universities to make the changes required of them in the changes being made. It has been taken up disability right groups and mentioned in the mainstream press.

    As with any new procedures or processes there can be a general lag in the training of staff resulting in a lottery to the amount of information they have or there understanding of the information.

    I am aware that the situation is more complicated now, and so the need to get the proper advice, and why I flagged your post to the benefit advisors here so you can hopefully get the right advice.

    "And yes he may be entitled to some benefits that other students are not, but he also has many more expenses that they do not have."

    I am sorry if I have misread what you have put, but this line in particular seems somewhat defensive. I responded to your post as all your hope seemed based on DSA and I wanted you to be aware that there are alternatives. Having an autistic daughter who went to university and got no extra support I am aware that there are extra costs and fully support giving disabled people the extra support they need to follow their studies. If my post upset you then I am sorry that was not my intention.

    Like others you have told I am shocked that much of the extra support to your son has been raked back by reducing his loan. I am not surprised though this is happening with a government that accepts people need a set amount of money to live, but then cap it and find other ways to reduce the amount of money they get. I hope you get things sorted out for your son, and he enjoys his time at University.

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • forgoodnesssakeforgoodnesssake Posts: 244Member Pioneering
    Hi Geoark...sorry about my tone!  Just getting pretty fed up with it all , but thanks for your comments and for checking that we know what other benefits he should get.  He will go for ESA when we have more time!! 
    Nystagmite, I am afraid that I was expressly told by SFE on the phone that the maintenance loan had been reduced because he also got the special support element and something about not wanting to him to have too much debt!! Couldn't explain it though so if you can point me to anything definitive about the whole issue of the special support element I'd be really greatful!
  • GeoarkGeoark Posts: 1,154Community champion Pioneering
    @forgoodnesssake no worries, I can understand your frustration and I know from experience that people can often question why our children should be entitled to extra support.  It is ludicrous though that in accepting he needs additional funding this is then taken from him. 

    As an individual I stood alone.
    As a member of a group I did things.
    As part of a community I helped to create change!

  • forgoodnesssakeforgoodnesssake Posts: 244Member Pioneering
    Update:  After the latest 30 minutes on the phone to SFE the adviser says something which makes a little light bulb go on in my head!  The special support element is a GRANT and not a loan, therefore they reduce the loan a little bit but replace it with a grant, so you have to pay back about £400 less then you would have had to  (wey heyy!!)   But why is this not made rather clearer and why in my previous 1hr 30mins on the phone to SFE did neither of those advisers think to mention it when i was clearly questioning the process and the rationale!! 

  • NystagmiteNystagmite Posts: 609Member Pioneering
    All I can find is:
    "Loans for living costs if you’re entitled to certain benefits

    You can receive more support with living costs than other students if you qualify for certain benefits such as Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment. The loan has a maintenance element and a special support element. The special support element will be ignored as income for means-tested benefits. New students not living with their parents can get a maximum loan of £11,998 if studying in London and £9,609 if studying outside London. For students living at home with their parents the maximum loan available is £8,732."

    From - https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/funding-higher-education-disabled-students-201718

  • mossycowmossycow Posts: 486Community champion Pioneering
    @forgoodnesssake Holy crap! I am very shocked at the crappy situation you and your son are in! Congrats by the way on his Uni place. I'm a 6th form teacher (though out of touch now as off work) so am always excited at hearing a 19 year old got into uni and interested in funding etc. 

    I say shocked, but at the same time not because of the awful cuts the government are sneaking in everywhere. 

    I've no practical help, sorry, but I am going to look into it with my local 6th form. 

    But! You mentioned getting ESA when you had time. I may have misunderstood and I might be totally wrong but I had to just mention: with ESA, the start date of benefit is the day you call up to start the application. It could take ages and you might not have time but worth ringing so that when you do do it any support would be backdated to that date... Not a later date if that makes sense. 

    That fact is definite. Though how it works as being a student I have no idea as I'm off work 

    "I'm trying to live like a random poem I read that ended 'to bloom where we are planted"

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