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Students Lobby MP's as NUS survey debunks govenment myths around cuts in DSA

43% of disabled students acquire their laptops through funding they receive, compared to only eight per cent of non-disabled students

Despite government claims that cuts to DSA funding are being made to a majority of students who own their own computer, a National Union of Students (NUS) specifically commissioned survey – ‘Degrees of Discrimination’ - now proves that almost half of disabled students acquire their laptops through funding they receive, compared to only eight per cent of non-disabled students. 

In contrast, 43 per cent of non-disabled respondents acquired their device with their own money compared to 25 per cent of disabled students.

The planned cuts are also underpinned by the claim that DSA has become too expensive, but the average spend per student has actually gone down in real terms over the last eight years*. 

With key organisations adding their support, over 200 students are taking part today in an NUS organised national day of action, lobbying their MPs locally, from London to Leeds, Canterbury and Newcastle against government plans to slash DSA.

NUS Disabled Students’ officer, Hannah Paterson, said:

“I have dyslexia, and the DSA paid for a voice recorder, computer and mind-mapping software for my undergraduate degree. I don't think I could have achieved the grades I did or even completed the course if I hadn't had this support.

“The government can’t say that 50 per cent of school leavers should go to university and then make this impossible to achieve. We are already seeing prospective students who are reconsidering their 2015 entry applications because they are worried that the changes will affect them.

“Hard-up universities will be unable to support disabled students if they have to pick up the tab for support that the DSA has covered until now. These cuts will undo years of work that has helped open up higher education to disabled students.”

Speaking  about the  survey, Labout MP David Blunkett MP said:

 “Equal access to a range of necessary facilities, and support to allow independent access to and successful completion of higher education courses by anyone with special educational needs, is a fundamental right. 

“A postcode lottery, in which necessary additional resource depends not on need but on the institution to which the student applies, is both unacceptable, and likely to have perverse consequences in the encouragement of Higher Education providers to welcome and facilitate entry and successful completion to courses.”

“This is a step backwards, 45 years to when I personally had to organise a voluntary reading circle to complete my undergraduate degree and to rely on friends and family for the support needed. It would be entirely wrong for students with disability to become yet another victim of the austerity measures necessitated by the global banking meltdown and not by any logical policy process.”

Paddy Turner, Chair of the National Association of Disability Practitioners (NADP) said: 

“DSAs have proven to be a gateway to attracting disabled people into university in the first place. Over the years we have seen repeated evidence that DSAs have been a hugely successful investment in keeping disabled students in study, ensuring they succeed equally with non-disabled students and improving their employability. 

“This saves the country money in welfare payments and makes the country money from taxes. As usual, short-sighted policy making to save money in the short term will cost everyone in the long term and hit disabled people hardest of all.”

Philip Connolly, Policy and Communications Manager of Disability Rights UK said:

“Disability Student Allowance enables many disabled students to graduate, get jobs, pay taxes and become contributors to the UK economy, there is no rationale for any measures that would act to ration the chances of this happening. 

“We hope as many students as possible support their unions efforts to safeguard the allowance.”

Under the existing DSA arrangements, a student can receive up to £5,161 a year for specialist equipment such as laptops and voice recognition software and £20,520 for non-medical helpers such as note-takers and library support, plus up to £1,724 for general costs incurred because of their disability, such as travel expenses. The responsibility for meeting many of these costs will now pass to universities, without any extra funding, with some institutions likely to be hit much more than others

From September 2015 it will only pay for support for students with specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, if their needs are "complex", although the definition of this, and who decides it, remains unclear. 

Policy changes would affect all full-time, full-time distance learning, part-time and postgraduate students in England applying for DSA for the first time from 1 September 2015.  

 

  • Date published: 06th June 2014
  • Written by: Elizabeth Savage

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