Disabled Students Allowance Update

Disabled Students Allowance (DSA): update October 2016

Changes to the Disabled Students Allowance in England, initially proposed in 2014, are now in place. They apply to new applicants to the allowance, regardless of their year of course entry. We expect students who have an existing allowance will to retain their existing support provision until the completion of their current course, but this is subject to confirmation from the Department for Education beyond 2017/18.

The detailed application guidance for the 2016/17 academic year clearly sets out the overarching intention that higher education providers should play an increasing role in disability provision and take steps to offer more inclusive provision; a HEFCE review has been proposed which will investigate HEI’s success in moving in this direction to inform future funding decisions.

For 2016/17 the day-to-day operational changes for colleagues to note are:

  • Colleges have agreed to absorb the costs of additional specialist accommodation costs.
  • Students will rarely be awarded a printing allowance as previously; Colleges have agreed to provide students with a reasonable allowance. This is to be decided at college level on a case by case basis. Typical DSA awards ranged from £50 to £300 per academic year.
  • Taxi accounts must be established with Student Finance England (SFE) approved firms for those students who wish to charge frequent taxi travel to their DSA (frequent is defined as more than 30 single journeys per year). The taxi firm must bill SFE directly. The DAS will no longer be able to process these taxi account claims. The DAS can advise on individual cases.
  • Students must pay a £200 contribution to any provision of computer hardware.

Overarching policy and funding changes to DSA policy in England:

  • Universities must take responsibility to provide for any non-specialist, non-medical help requirements. Non-medical helpers are the human support workers provided to students. Non-specialist roles include library support workers, note-takers, examination support workers and practical support assistants.
  • All specialist non-medical help must meet new quality guidelines and be subject to market competition. In practice this means current Oxford provision is now subject to price competition from alternative suppliers.
  • For institutionally-owned property, Universities must meet the additional costs of providing specialist accommodation.
  • Individual printing and scanning equipment and audio recording equipment will only be provided where existing institutional provision does not meet the disability-related need.
  • Frequent travel, although still fundable by DSA, is subject to new processing regulations.
  • A £200 contribution is required from any student who takes up the offer of a computer and high-specification computers are mostly unfunded.
  • The allowance for the purchase of non-core text books has been removed.
  • Funding for mobility scooters/wheelchairs and other mobility aids will no longer be met through DSA. These costs are expected to be funded through the NHS.

The DSA will continue to be available and retains support for:

  • Specialist non-medical help such as specialist specific learning difficulties (SpLD) study skills tutors, specialist mentors and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters.
  • Sighted guides and mobility trainers.
  • Standard computer hardware (although subject to the £200 fee).
  • Assistive software, where institutional provision is insufficient to meet student needs.
  • Specialist ergonomic equipment.
  • Travel costs.
  • Personal fridges for medication storage.
  • Printing, scanning and audio recording equipment (in limited circumstances).
  • Consumable expenses such as photocopying and printing (in limited circumstances).

These changes apply to English students, but these students form a significant proportion of disabled students at Oxford, and very similar changes apply to NHS and Research Council funded students. No changes have yet been announced for students from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Please contact the Disability Advisory Service for further information.