Disabled Students’ Allowances, or DSAs, are allowances which cover the additional expenses that disabled students encounter during their studies. They are designed to aid people with disability-related costs directly associated with studying. As a result, they are not intended to cover costs which a disabled person would have, whether they were a student or not, or costs which every student has.

DSA Assistive TechnologyDSAs are grants and do not need to be paid back. They are available to people with a recognised disability or learning difficulty, who are ordinarily UK residents, and who are studying on one of the courses covered by the scheme. These courses include:

  • Full or part-time undergraduate bachelor’s degrees.
  • Master’s degrees.
  • Foundation degrees and sandwich courses.
  • NHS-funded study programmes.
  • Postgraduate Certificates in Education (PGCEs).
  • Legal Practice Courses (LPCs) and Graduate Diplomas in Law (GDLs).
  • Distance learning and Open University courses, if study amounts to at least 25% of the full-time equivalent.

Unlike most sources of finance for students, DSAs are not paid in set amounts and depend on the individual needs of the student. They are also not means-tested, which means they do not vary depending on a student’s income or the income of their family. DSAs are divided into four seperate allowances, as follows:

Specialist Equipment Allowance

Intended to provide disabled students with the necessary equipment to get the maximum from their programme, specialist equipment allowance covers the cost of the equipment itself, along with repairs, insurance, warranty and training in how to use it. Any equipment purchased with the allowance becomes the property of the student and does not need to be returned upon completion of a course.

Common items of equipment covered by the grant include:

  • Computers.
  • Software packages, e.g. voice recognition or screen-reading software.
  • Specialist furniture.

For both full-time and part-time students, the maximum value of equipment bought through the scheme is £5,161.

Non-Medical Helpers Allowance

Many students suffering from disabilities or learning difficulties require personal assistance in order to fulfill what is expected of them. The non-medical helpers allowance portion of DSA is intended to pay for the wages and costs of people involved in this process. Examples of helpers covered by the scheme include:

  • Sign language interpreters.
  • Mobility enablers.
  • Notetakers.

Specialist tuition may also fall under this category, although additional tuition in the academic subject itself is not covered. An example of specialist tuition covered by non-medical helpers allowance is dyslexic students who require study skills support. Full-time students can claim up to £20,520 per year in non-medical helpers allowance, while part-time students can claim a maximum of £15,390.

General Allowance

In addition to the above allowances, a general allowance is available for use in covering extra disability-related costs, or as sundry items. Examples include:

  • Additional books.
  • Expenses related to additional photocopying e.g. paper, ink cartridges and photocopying charges.
  • Internet connections.

It can, essentially, be used to ‘top up’ the other allowances. For full-time students, the maximum general allowance per year is £1,724.

Travel Costs

Apart from in Scotland, students may also be able to claim for disability-related travel costs. These must be expenses which would not be faced without the disability. Typically, student loans provide around £300 for travel costs and so the DSA for travel will usually pay the difference between this and the actual costs faced by a disabled student. The actual amount granted to the student is determined by a needs assessment that must be carried out by a DSA QAG approved centre.

Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned
  •  License: Image author owned

By Nick Davison

This guest post was written by Nick Davison, Nick writes about a number of disibility and education related subjects

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