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Date posted: 7th July 2020
Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) welcomes the announcement made yesterday by the Minister of State for Universities, Michelle Donelan, indicating significant changes to Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA).
TPT has campaigned for change to the DSA since January 2019 and met with Chris Skidmore (the then Minister for Universities) last year as well as the Department for Education (DfE) to raise the issues many disabled students face.
Charles Colquhoun, CEO at Thomas Pocklington Trust, said: “We know students often cannot access the equipment they need through DSA and recommended to the then minister and the DfE that there should be one budget rather than four separate sub-allowances. So, we are delighted they have taken these views on board and announced this reform”
In her statement Ms Donelan said: “I am announcing today changes to Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) that will increase flexibility for students to access the support that they need. The undergraduate DSA, which is currently structured as four separate sub-allowances, will be simplified into one allowance in line with the postgraduate DSA.
“The same maximum allowance (£25,000) will apply to both full-time and part-time undergraduate and postgraduate DSA recipients in 2021/22. This will apply for both new and continuing students. An exception for travel costs will be made to this maximum cap, which means that travel costs will in effect continue to be uncapped.”
Holly Scott-Gardner, who came to the meeting with TPT in 2019 to share her first-hand experiences of DSA with the minister, said: “This would have made a huge difference when studying as an undergraduate, as I’d have had greater autonomy over the support I received. Equipment for blind students is very expensive, which often meant that in the past students had to decide between two necessary pieces of technology. I am pleased to see that now they will be able to choose the support package that works best for them.”
Currently, students claim for support under the four sub-allowances under which the equipment grant is limited to a maximum of £5,849. By combining the sub-allowances, it gives students the freedom to choose how they allocate their grant.
Tara Chattaway, Student Support Service Manager at TPT, explains: “Students often reach the maximum amount of funding available without fully addressing their needs. The equipment required often needs to be a high specification and therefore costly. A braille reader alone can take up all of the equipment budget. This means students with vision impairment settle for equipment that is cheaper but isn’t practical and doesn’t meet their needs.”
Charles added: “Whilst for most students with vision impairment this is great news, I am concerned that the overall budget for students has reduced by just over £2000 a year which may mean those with the most complex needs will not be able to access all the equipment they need.”
The new rules will come into force in the 2021/2022 academic year.
The TPT Student Support Service provides resources and guidance to for students with vision impairment. This includes: