Bridging the gap: A guide to the Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs) in higher education

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1 Bridging the gap: A guide to the Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs) in higher education 2012/13 Follow us on twitter.com/sfwales Find us on facebook.com/sfwales SFW/BTGB/V12

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3 Contents Introduction Page 2 What is Student Finance Wales? 2 What is student finance? 2 Who is this guide for? 2 What are DSAs for? 3 Section 1 Do I qualify? Page 5 Section 2 What help can I get? Page 8 Section 3 How do I apply? Page 14 Section 4 Appeals and Complaints Page 17 Section 5 How to find out more Page

4 Introduction What is Student Finance Wales? Student Finance Wales is a partnership between the Welsh Government, Local Authorities (LAs) and the Student Loans Company (SLC). The SLC and LAs in Wales work together to deliver financial support to students on behalf of the Welsh Government. What is student finance? If you re thinking about going into higher education, you re also probably thinking about how you are going to pay for it. Student Finance Wales offers all kinds of financial help so that you can make the most of your time at university or college without having to worry about money. Student finance can be money or services to help you with your tuition fees and living costs while you re studying in higher education. It can include grants, loans, and bursaries. But different student finance packages are available depending on whether you are studying full-time, part-time or a post-graduate course. There s also extra help for those with a disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty in the form of Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs). Who is this guide for? This guide provides information about the Disabled Students Allowances (DSAs) for current and prospective students in higher education who normally live in Wales. Similar arrangements apply if you live in Scotland, England or Northern Ireland. If you do not live in Wales, you can find out more information relevant to where you live at one of these websites. England Northern Ireland Scotland What are the DSAs for? The DSAs help pay for extra costs you may have to pay when studying your course, as a direct result of your disability, mental 2

5 health condition (such as depression or anxiety) or specific learning difficulty (such as dyslexia or dyspraxia). The allowances can help with the cost of a non-medical helper, items of specialist equipment, travel and other course-related costs. DSAs can be awarded to students studying: full-time and part-time undergraduate courses (such as degree or HND-level courses) including Open University and other distance-learning courses; and certain full-time and part-time postgraduate courses (courses for which the entry requirement is at least a first degree or equivalent) including Open University and other distance-learning courses; who can prove that they have a disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty which affects their ability to study. This guide explains: what costs DSAs can help with; how to apply; how you get paid; and who can help you with your application. The information in this booklet is for guidance only and does not cover all circumstances. Contacting Student Finance Wales. If you need more help you can contact the Student Finance Wales contact centre on or contact your local authority. You can get a list of local authority contact details from the website at Follow Student Finance Wales on Facebook and Twitter. facebook.com/sfwales twitter.com/sfwales If you are an Open University (OU) student you should contact the OU on (textphone ). 3

6 What if I do not want to tell my university or college about my disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty? The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (as amended by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001) has made it illegal for universities and colleges to discriminate against disabled students by treating them less favourably in their admissions policies or the services they provide. Under the Act, universities and colleges must make reasonable adjustments so that disabled students are not at a substantial disadvantage compared with other students who are not disabled. This means that you can tell your university or college about your disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty in complete confidence to make sure that you receive the support you need. However, if you do not want to tell your university or college, you should include a letter with your DSA application form advising your local authority of this. Your local authority will treat any information about your disability or specific learning difficulty as confidential, but if you choose not to tell your university or college about your disability, the necessary reasonable adjustments may not be made. You can tell the university s or college s disability adviser about your disability in complete confidence, to make sure they get you the support you need. 4

7 1 Do I qualify? Summary what this section is about This section gives some brief information about the rules governing whether you are eligible to receive DSAs. If you would like more detailed information about whether you can get student finance, you can get a copy of the guide A guide to financial support for higher education students in 2012/13 (additional information) which is available at or by calling our publication line on quoting reference SFW/FSHE/ADD/1213. To be eligible for DSAs you must: meet the personal eligibility conditions for receiving student finance; study an eligible full-time undergraduate course (including a distance-learning course); part-time undergraduate course (including a distance-learning course); other first higher education course (such as a HND or Dip HE) taught or research post-graduate course (including a distance-learning course); Initial Teacher Training course; and provide evidence that the effects of your disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty will mean that you will need to pay extra costs in attending your course. You cannot get DSAs if: you are an EU student and are eligible only for support with your fees; you are a sandwich-course student on a full-year paid placement (but you may still be able to get DSAs if you are doing certain types of unpaid work experience in the public or voluntary sectors); 5

8 you are an undergraduate or post-graduate student and are eligible for a Department of Health, NHS or other healthcare bursary; you are a post-graduate student receiving a bursary or award from a research council; you are a post-graduate student who will get the NHS Business Services Authority s bursary for students on post-graduate socialwork courses; or you are a post-graduate student receiving a bursary or award from your university or college which includes support that is equal to DSAs. You should contact the provider of your bursary or award for advice on any extra support you may be entitled to because of your disability (details of these are in section 5 support from other organisation.) You cannot have DSAs for more than one course at the same time. Previous study will not affect your eligibility for DSAs, even if you received financial support. However, if you received any specialist equipment through the DSAs for a previous course, this will be taken into consideration. There is no age limit on receiving DSAs, and if you are aged 60 or over you may be eligible for them even if you are not eligible for a Maintenance Loan. Open University students To be eligible for DSAs, you must be registered for an OU undergraduate or postgraduate level course that lasts for at least one year and does not take more than twice as long to complete as an equivalent full-time course. This will usually mean that the course amounts to 60 credit points each year. However, you may be able to study fewer than 60 credit points in some years as long as you make up the difference in other years and can still complete the course in no more than twice the time it would take to complete an equivalent full-time course. 6

9 How do I show that I am eligible? If you are physically disabled, or have a mental-health condition, you will need to provide medical proof of this, such as a letter from your doctor or specialist. If you have a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, you must provide evidence in the form of a diagnostic assessment from a psychologist or suitably qualified specialist teacher. If you have had a diagnostic assessment in the past, it may need to be updated. You will have to pay for any tests to establish your eligibility for Disabled Students Allowances. If you need a test but cannot afford to pay for it, you may be able to get financial help through your university or college s Financial Contingency Fund. 7

10 2 What help can I get? Summary what this section is about Disabled Students Allowances can help pay the extra costs you may have on your course because of a disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty. There is a range of help available and a description of this help is set out below. The rates on this page are the maximum you can get. The DSAs you will receive will depend on a Needs Assessment (see How do I show that I am eligible? opposite). This section only details the DSAs available. For details about all other student finance you should refer to our other publications details of these are in section 5 of this guide. Undergraduate students Specialist equipment allowance What is it for? To help you buy equipment you may need. You can also use it to pay for repair, technical support, insurance or extended warranty costs arising from owning that equipment. How much can How much you can get does not depend on your I get? income or that of your family. The amount of DSAs you receive will depend on the DSA needs assessment. The table below shows the maximum amount of help available. Full-time Up to 5,166 for the whole course Part-time Up to 5,166 for the whole course How is it paid? Do I have to pay it back? The money will either be paid directly to the equipment supplier or into your bank account. No. However, if you purchase equipment before starting your course and then fail to attend, you will need to return or pay for the equipment. 8

11 Specialist equipment allowance Anything else? The rates shown are the maximum you can get. They are meant to support people with a high level of need, so most people will get less than the maximum. Your local authority (or the OU) can also reimburse costs you have to pay to rent, rather than buy, items of equipment if this is more economical. You may be able to get items of specialist equipment recommended in a DSA needs assessment report before the start of your course so that you may use them from the very beginning of your studies. However, you will need to show evidence that you have been accepted on your course. If you need more help or advice, you can call your local authority, SFW contact centre or you can speak to the disability adviser at your university or college. 9

12 Non-medical helper allowance What is it for? This allowance may provide for helpers, such as readers, sign-language interpreters, note-takers and other non-medical assistants you need to benefit fully from your course. How much can How much you can get does not depend on your I get? income or that of your family. The amount of DSAs you receive will depend on the DSA needs assessment. The table below shows the maximum amount of help available for this year. Full-time Up to 20,520 a year Part-time A percentage of the full-time rate, up to 15,390 a year. How is it paid? Do I have to pay it back? Anything else? The money will either be paid directly to the supplier of the service or into your bank account. No. The rates shown are the maximum you can get. They are meant to support people with a high level of need, so most people will get less than the maximum. If you need more help or advice, you can call your local authority, SFW contact centre or, you can speak to the disability adviser at your chosen university or college. 10

13 General allowance What is it for? This allowance may be paid towards other disability-related spending. You can use it to buy items such as tapes and Braille paper, or to top up the specialist equipment and non-medical helper allowances, if necessary. How much can How much you can get does not depend on your I get? income or that of your family. The amount of DSAs you receive will depend on the DSA needs assessment. The table below shows the maximum amount of help available for this year. Full-time Up to 1,729 a year Part-time A percentage of the full-time rate to a maximum of 1,296 a year. How is it paid? Do I have to pay it back? Anything else? The money will either be paid directly to the supplier of the services or into your bank account. No. The rates shown are the maximum you can get. They are meant to support people with a high level of need, so most people will get less than the maximum. If you need more help or advice, you can call your local authority, SFW contact centre or, you can speak to the disability adviser at your chosen university or college. 11

14 Travel allowance What is it for? This allowance is to pay for any extra travel costs you may have to pay to attend your university or college because of your disability. You will not be eligible for help with everyday travel costs which any student would expect to have. How much How much you can get does not depend on your can I get? income or that of your family. Full-time Reasonable spending on extra travel costs. Part-time Reasonable spending on extra travel costs. How is it paid? The money will either be paid directly to the supplier of the services or into your bank account. Do I have to No. pay it back? Anything else? If you need more help or advice, you can call your local authority, SFW contact centre or, you can speak to the disability adviser at your chosen university or college. 12

15 For full-time and part-time post-graduate students There is a single DSA allowance to meet all costs of up to 10,260 a year for both full-time and part-time post-graduate students. You can use this for specialist equipment, non-medical helpers, extra travel costs or other course-related costs. The amount of DSA you receive will depend on the DSA needs assessment. Initial Teacher Training Courses (ITT) If you are an existing student who started an ITT course before 1st Sep 2010 then you are eligible to apply for the same package of DSA support you have received in previous years. Students who started a full-time ITT course on or after 1st Sep 2010 are eligible for the full-time support package including the full-time DSA package. Students who started a part-time ITT course on or after 1 Sep 2010 are eligible for the standard part-time student support package including part-time DSA. Benefits Most full-time students aren t eligible to income-related benefits such as Income Support or Housing Benefit. However certain groups (including single parents, student couples with dependent children and some disabled students) may be eligible for incomerelated benefits while they are studying. Jobcentre Plus and your local authority s Housing Benefit section will take account of most of any Maintenance Loan (and some student grants) that you are entitled to. If you receive the Special Support Grant this will not be taken into account. There is a free and confidential Benefit Enquiry Line for people with disabilities and their carers. The number is (textphone: ). 13

16 3 How do I apply? Summary what this section is about So now you know what financial support is available, how do you get it? This section tells you how and when to apply for DSAs, who you should return your application form to and how to get a needs assessment. Information: Open University Students should apply directly to the Open University s Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) office. Step 1 Fill in the Disabled Students Allowances application form. Step 2 Your local authority will assess your application and send you a letter to let you know if you qualify. Send your form and evidence to your local authority. Step 3 You should attend a needs assessment. Step 4 Your local authority will send you a letter to let you know what DSAs you can get. 14

17 Full time undergraduate students Step 1 You should apply for DSAs as soon as possible. You do not have to wait until you have a confirmed place although you can apply for DSAs at any stage of your course. When you are applying for student finance, the application form asks if you want to apply for DSAs. If you have stated on the application form for student finance, or on your online application, that you want to apply for DSAs, your local authority will send you a separate Disabled Students Allowances application form for you to provide information about your disability, mental health condition, or specific learning difficulty. Important: You should return your form to your local authority with evidence of your disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty (see How do I show I am eligible? on page 7). If you are applying for DSAs only, you can download the application form at You can also get copies from your local authority or by phoning our publication line on (textphone ). You can get versions in large print, in Braille and on audio by phoning our publication line. Step 2 Your local authority will assess your application and send you a letter to let you know if you are eligible for DSAs. If you are eligible for DSAs your local authority will ask you to have a needs assessment carried out so that the help you need on your course can be identified. The needs assessment will be carried out at an independent assessment centre by a person with specialist experience, or at a centre within your university or college. It can be arranged well before the start of term, and even before you have a confirmed place at university or college. However, you should not arrange for a DSA needs assessment until your local authority (or the OU) agree for you to do so and that your choice of assessment centre is approved. 15

18 Details of your nearest needs assessment centre can be found on the Disabled Students Allowances Quality Assurance Group (DSA- QAG) website at: Step 3 You should attend a needs assessment and you will receive a report which identifies the types of equipment and other support you will need, how much it will cost and where to get it from. However, any support that is recommended will have to be agreed with your local authority (or the OU). The report will also identify any training you might need to make best use of the equipment recommended. Step 4 Your local authority will send you a letter to tell you whether any specialist equipment and other support that has been recommended in your Needs Assessment Report can be paid for from DSAs. They will then either order any equipment and arrange other support for you or provide instructions so you can do it yourself. Part-time and post-graduate students (but not OU students) If you are a part-time undergraduate student or a postgraduate student and want to apply for DSAs, you should fill in the Disabled Students Allowances application form and send it to your local authority. You can download the form from our website or get one by phoning our publication line on (textphone ). You can get versions in large print, in Braille and on audio by phoning our publication line. You should then follow steps 2 4 as detailed above. Open University students You should apply directly to the Open University s Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) office. If you have told the Open University that you have a disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty when you applied for your course, the OU s DSA Office will automatically send you all the information you need to apply. You will need to send your filled-in form, and any necessary or relevant documents, back to the Open University s DSA Office. Or you can apply online:

19 4 Appeals and complaints Appeals Your local authority will have a formal appeals procedure which will be available upon request. This will usually involve the Head of Service at the local authority investigating the reasons why you have been refused support. Complaints All the organisations involved in the student support process have clearly defined complaints procedures. You will need to first establish who the complaint is to be made against or contact the department you last dealt with and asking for a complaint to be logged. Your local authority will be responsible for assessing your claim for support; The Student Loans Company will be responsible for operational services and the processing of your student award payment; The Welsh Government will be responsible for providing policy guidance. 17

20 You should contact your local authority for details of their complaints procedure. Other contact addresses Complaints Unit Welsh Government Crown Buildings Cathays Park Cardiff CF10 3NQ Telephone: Fax: Customer Assistance Student Loans Company Ltd 100 Bothwell Street Glasgow G2 7JD The Public Service Ombudsman for Wales (PSOW) can also offer advice regarding a complaint against the service you have received. PSOW will usually expect the complainant to have gone through the internal complaints process of the relevant organization before investigating a case. Public Services Ombudsman For Wales, 1 Ffordd yr Hen Gae Pencoed CF35 5LJ Tel: (01656) Fax: (01656) Full details on how to complain can be found on page 18 of A guide to financial support for higher education students in 2012/13 (additional information) which can be found at:

21 5 How to find out more You can get extra copies of this guide and the following student finance guides by visiting the Student Finance Wales website at: and downloading a copy; or, calling our Publication Line on (textphone ). You can also get copies in Braille, on audio and in large print. 1 Information about help for new full-time students Get the guide A guide to financial support for full-time higher education students (new students) (reference SFW/FSHE/NEW/1213) 2 Information about help for continuing full-time students Get the guide A guide to financial support for full-time higher education students (continuing students) (reference SFW/FSHE/CONT/1213) 3 Information about help for part-time students Get the guide A guide to financial support for part-time students in higher education (reference SFW/FSPT/V12) 4 Help for students with children or adult dependants Get the guide Childcare Grant and other support for full-time student parents in higher education (reference SFW/CCGB/V12) 5 Information about student loans Get the guide Student Loans a guide to terms and conditions (reference SFW/SLTC/V12) 6 Full DSA1 Form 2012/13 for students wishing to apply for Disabled Students Allowances only (reference SFW/DSA1F/1213) 7 Slimform DSA 2012/13 for students who have completed, or are in the middle, of completing an application for student finance and also want to apply for Disabled Students Allowances (reference SFW/DSASL/1213). 19

22 Contacting Student Finance Wales You can phone Student Finance Wales Contact Centre on between 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and between 9am and 1pm on Saturday. Other useful contacts Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) The EHRC helpline can give information and guidance on discrimination and human rights issues. EHRC Helpline Wales Freepost RRLR-UEYB-UYZL 3rd Floor, 3 Callaghan Square Cardiff, CF10 5BT Phone: Textphone: Fax: (Lines are open from 9am to 5pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and from 9am to 8pm on Wednesdays.) Visit the EHRC website at:

23 Support from other organisations. Undergraduate and post-graduate NHS students. If you will receive an NHS bursary, or plan to apply for one, you should contact your university or college for details of the support that is available to disabled students under the NHS Bursary Scheme. You can get more information about the NHS Bursary Scheme, and the DSAs this offers, in the National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare s guide Financial Help for Healthcare Students in Wales. You can get a copy of the booklet on-line at: For further information on NHS bursaries in Wales contact: NHS Wales Student Awards Unit 3rd Floor 14 Cathedral Road Cardiff CF11 9LJ Phone: (Bursary Enquiries) For information about NHS bursaries in England, contact: NHS Student Bursaries Hesketh House Broadway Fleetwood FY7 8SS Phone: Fax: Website:

24 Post-graduates funded by research councils DSAs are available to students funded by research councils if the student has to pay extra costs in their post-graduate study as a result of their disability. Details of the level and type of DSA support offered, and information about how to apply for it, are available on each research council s website. Arts and Humanities Research Council (visit: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (visit: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (visit: Economic and Social Research Council (visit: Medical Research Council (visit: Natural Environment Research Council (visit: Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (visit: Science and Technology Facilities Council (visit You should speak to the disability adviser at your university or college if you want to apply for DSAs from the research councils as they will be able to offer information and help. The research councils will normally help meet the cost of a DSA-needs assessment. Support for a post-graduate course from your university or college. If your university or college provides support equivalent to DSAs for post-graduate courses, you will not be able to get a postgraduate DSA from your local authority. You should not include any payment you will receive from your university s or college s Financial Contingency Fund. 22

25 You can get more copies of this booklet by calling our publication line on quoting reference SFW/BTGB/V12. There is a textphone service on You can also get this booklet in large print, in Braille and on audio, free of charge, by phoning our publication line. The guide is also available at December 2011 ISBN: SFW/BTGB/V12

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