Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities
Evidence for BIS/Professor Hopkin Review of Student Loans Company with specific reference to disabled students applying for Disabled Students’ Allowance for entry October 2009 onwards
Part 2 - Case studies
The attached case studies include students who have contacted Skill’s Information service directly, and some received from HEIs.
Case study 1
Case study example from Skill (email from student)
When my Disabled Students application form was sent to the SLC by my doctor at the beginning of August I requested acknowledgment by letter (recorded delivery), telephone and in my online account. I was told that
this was ―not possible‖. I wanted to know as I feared that if it became lost
then I would have ample time before the start of university in which to send a new form.
I was told yesterday by the SLC that my application form has ―not been received‖ (basically they have lost it). I am outraged as this was the very
thing I feared and attempted to avoid. Not only do I now have to make a
new appointment with my doctor all over again but the SLC were rude to me and told me that ―you can’t just queue jump‖ even though I explained
that I am not queue jumping as it is the SLC who have lost my application
So in effect they are refusing to expedite my DSA application and I will have to start the queue all over again which will take until November to be assessed.
I was really trying my best to continue my studies regardless but this is the final nail in the coffin. I really can’t go to university now so I will ask them to defer my placement until next year perhaps.
My complaint letter to the SLC (they) received 3 weeks ago (signed for
recorded) has not been acknowledged and I don’t know the time limit the SLC has to deal with complaints until I can take it to the next level.
I have found the whole experience with the SLC a nightmare and I will advise anyone to think twice about going to university unless they are rich.
I am currently under therapy due to deterioration in my mental health disorder and this is too much to deal with. I never expected all this stress
and brick walls.
Case study 2
Case Study ongoing - vulnerable student contacted Skill Information Service for support
rdTwo further reminders have been sent, the latest 3 November, no reply
from SLC. This email was preceded by a phone call to SLC so was expected.
From: Tony Stevens
Sent: 19 October 2009 19:05
Subject: Disabled student's DSA issues
We have the following student who we have been trying to help get to the bottom of the problem for a while.
H H is a second year student at the University of Westminster. The gist of it seems to be that his entire student support package has been suspended because of an issue about his taxi driver who was being paid out of the Travel allowance of his DSAs.
H says that this driver has been a particular help to him and he asked him to help with other aspects such as filling in application forms for this year, but this has apparently lead to the SLC becoming suspicious and stopping all entitlements. H is not exactly sure what the problem is or how he is supposed to resolve it – as he has mental health difficulties he needs quite a lot of mentoring and support.
He is currently in a difficult position without any funding and is at present unable to attend university.
His details are:
Thanks for any assistance you can provide in looking into the delay in him receiving financial support.
Information and Advice Development Officer
Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities
Unit 3, Floor 3, Radisson Court, 219 Long Lane, London, SE1 4PR Main line: 020 7450 0620 (voice / text) Fax: 020 7450 0650 Information Service: 0800 328 5050 (voice) 0800 068 2422 (textphone) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.skill.org.uk
Open Tuesdays 11.30am-1.30pm and Thursdays 1.30-3.30pm
Case study 3
Case Study 3 received by Skill Information Service 3 November 2009
To Whom It May Concern:
I was previously contacted by phone by a gentleman named Tony, who was very helpful in advising me on options with regards to my desperately needed disabled students allowance which has still not been processed. He also offered to take forward my application as a test case, although that was several weeks ago, so I suspect I have missed the boat on that one. I have been seriously ill and in and out of hospital, hence my exceedingly late response! If it is still possible to push my application through as a test case (to show student finance England’s spectacular incompetency), I would love to take up the offer.
My full name is E R H, although I am known as (supplied).
My previous address (when I initially applied for the DSA) was (supplied), however I am now living at(supplied). I am a full time student doing an MSc in Psychiatric Research at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London and my student number is (supplied).
I have multiple and complex disabilities including a Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD - which is on the autistic spectrum), severe Dyspraxia, a Dissociation disorder...and so the list goes on....
I contacted Student Finance England initially in April 2009 by phone, who advised me to apply to Student Finance Wales (as I was resident there for an extended period prior to my studies at Keele). I therefore applied to Student Finance Wales in May 2009, who took two months to process and reject my application (although they have been much more helpful that Student Finance England), and they then re-referred me back to SFE. SFE then failed to send me an application form, despite repeated telephone requests for a paper copy (as at this time they were still picking up the phone sometimes!). I eventually gave up hope of waiting for one and believe my application (which a friend got from the internet for me) was submitted to SFE in late July (although I need to check dates). Either way, they have misadvised me, failed to process my requests, not processed my application, and not been contactable in any media, so needless, to say, my dealings with them have been wholly unsatisfactory and have caused me a considerable amount of stress.
I am being substantially disadvantaged by the fact that my DSA has still not been processed, and although I have approached Kings College disability service (which is not based on my campus) for help, this has not been very forthcoming as they seem under resourced, overstretched and irritated by my lack of diplomacy (which is characteristic of NVLD) and my desperate pleas for assistance have resulted in headaches not help. For this reason, and others, I wish to get the DSA funding for equipment and study skills paid to me directly so I can gain some control and employ someone appropriate within my geographic area to provide me with the study support I need.
If you are able to either take on my application as a test case, or further advise me, I would very much appreciate your help.
Case study 4
Case study 4 supplied to Skill from University of Plymouth to Skill
Some contact details removed
nd22 September 2009
Student Finance England PO
Customer Number: (supplied)
I am writing to formally record that I am very unhappy about the timescale you have followed, with relation to my son’s application for Disability
We posted XXX’s DSA1 F application to you, complete with all the required th documents, on 16April 2009. It was sent via special recorded delivery with guaranteed next day delivery.
I waited a couple of days and tried to track the delivery via the Post Office website. Nothing. I waited a few more days and tried again. Nothing. I phoned the Post Office enquiry line and asked if they could find out what had happened. Eventually, I was told that they were not able to deliver to the quoted address (as above) as there was a re-direct on it. I asked about the 'recorded delivery' and was advised that Student Finance England (SFE) had asked for all post to be re-directed as it could not cope with the volume, and therefore were not signing even for recorded delivery items.
I tried to phone the SFE helpline to find out what was going on and whether XXX’s application had been received. I was passed on from phone number
to phone number as no-one seemed to know what was happening. I was eventually advised that there was a huge backlog of post in sacks that hadn't even been 'logged' as received, never mind opened and processed,
and that it was likely XXX’s application was in there somewhere, and would I wait for a few weeks for them to catch up. Of course I would, I did understand about the volume problem. So I waited.
th May, my son received a letter saying that SFE had received his On 27
application but not his psychological report — and that it was the student's
responsibility to forward the report and bear any cost of doing so — but that
they would 'hold his application on file' until they received further correspondence from him. The psychological report was most definitely included with my son's application — I know because I checked before
sealing the envelope.
I phoned again. Phoning was a time consuming and frustrating experience. I was repeatedly left `holding' for anything up to just less than an hour — and
was cut off on several occasions, having to start all over again. When I finally got to speak to someone, they were very kind, very understanding but quite unable to give me any information. I explained the story so far and was eventually put through to the 'other location' to someone 'who may be able to look it up on the database'.
This chap was again very kind and understanding. He explained that the volume of post was bigger than the SFE could cope with, so they were using an outside agency to open the post, send the application forms back to Darlington for processing, and to scan in any accompanying 'evidence' onto a database. It would seem, however, that non-one thought about how to match up the scanned evidence with the application forms once they were separated — hence letters needed to be sent back to students to ask them to send it in again. He took details of XXX's name, Customer Reference No etc and offered to check the database for me. He looked and said he could see that the financial evidence I had sent in to support XXX's application for a student loan had been logged as received, but no psychological report. He suggested that I sent another copy in with an accompanying letter —which immediately thdid that day, 27 May.
We heard nothing more about the DSA1 F application and assumed that the SFE were waiting until the A level results were published and university places confirmed before letting XXX know what equipment etc he would be offered to support him whilst studying for his degree.
ndOn 22 August, XXX received a letter from the SFE stating that before you could process his application any further, he would need to have a Study thNeeds Assessment. The letter from the SFE was dated 13 August — but ndarrived on 22. The first appointment we could book him into was at the th Cheltenham Assessment Centre (Chace) on 9September. XXX attended,
and has been waiting to hear back. I phoned Chace today. They were most helpful and assured me that a letter is in the post to XXX.
What I was horrified to hear, however, that the SFE is taking around 5 weeks to process the Assessment Centre reports and recommendations before contacting the student with the outcome. This will take XXX up to the end of October. Assuming that some form of supporting equipment and software is
approved, he then has to send the SFE letter to the supplier, wait for them to contact him back to discuss and agree any technical details, and then wait delivery and installation in his room at Plymouth.
I now read in the news that the SFE is hopelessly inundated with paperwork, applications, and administration and that hundreds of students will start university not even knowing if they are going to be awarded a student loan!
Please accept this letter as a formal complaint about the length of time it is taking the SFE to process my son's application for Disability Support.
th April. He sent it in, on time, complete with all required evidence on 16You waited until late in August to tell him that he needed to have a Study Needs Assessment. Had you told him in June, July or even earlier in August, XXX could have attended and had the report sent back to you in good time for ndprocessing before the start of term. It is now 22 September and with the way
things are going, it could be Christmas before he actually receives any equipment and software to support him.
We were advised by yourselves and by the Assessment Centre not to buy any equipment at all until we hear from you about what you will be supplying. So far from providing XXX with any support to help him cope with his disability whilst studying for a degree, your tardiness and disorganisation is ensuring that he starts his course at even more of a disadvantage.
I should point out that XXX is now at Plymouth University. This week is Freshers' Week and his course starts on Monday 28th.
I hope that you will respond quickly to this letter and provide me with some assurance that you have matters in hand, and that as the Government body sanctioned to assess and provide educational support to disabled students, you are fit to execute your responsibilities.
Laura M M Hutchinson
Cc Cheltenham Assessment Centre, Bath Rd, Cheltenham
Case study 5
Case Study supplied by London Schools of Economics/NADP to Skill
I started my application process in June when I had a meeting with Linda who she printed the DSA application form. Early in July I had a meeting
with a dyslexia support tutor from MDX ―Pauline Summer‖ which helped me fill up the application. During that meeting we call the DSA and we spend a lot of time trying to clarify whether I am eligible to apply for a disability
support at a masters level student and that it will be ok to send my
―Dyslexia Institute‖ assessment which the person on the phone said that
yes that be ok. A day later Pauline informed me that they are 2 different application forms and the one we had fill up was the wrong one so I had to thprint a new one and do it by myself. I send my document on 30 of July
and since then I am still waiting for an answer. I have give them several
calls in September and they said that they will send me a letter which I am rdstill waiting today 3 of November!!! As a result I give them a call last week where I spend over an hour trying to find out what happen with my application.
To keep it short they said that the 2page report that I send it was not enough and that I should send a new one. When I asked what it was missing, they were unable to answer to that, when I asked what are the minimum pages that a report had to be in order to be accepted they couldn’t reply either. I inform the LSE student support who then sent an themail on 28 of October with the Greek medical documents that in the first place they had said they don’t need them. Advised by the LSE student ndsupport, I give them a call yesterday 2 of October to see what was the
outcome of the email. After again spending over an hour on the phone and
having to clarify that I am eligible for a disability support as a master students they told me that they haven’t received any email from my university and that I should send them again a new one.
As I couldn’t wait again for a week to see if or not have received the email for my university I gave them a call today 3rd of November. They said that
they can not let me know about, having or not, received the email from thLSE as at the moment they are dealing with emails send on 20 of
September which means that I will have to wait five more weeks just to find out if they or not receive the email!!!
This is totally unacceptable for me as until I sort out this issue I can’t settle
down and do my academic work properly. As a result I feel I am wasting a
lot of time having to call them and think what to ask or to reply to their tricky
questions; such as explaining over and over again that yes, I am eligible to
apply for Disability allowances.