Skill National Bureau for Students with Disabilities

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Skill National Bureau for Students with Disabilities ...

    Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities


    Directory for LEA Awards


    th6 Edition August 2005

About Skill

    Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities is a voluntary organisation

    that helps disabled people across the UK to make the most of their opportunities

    in post-16 education, training and employment. Skill‟s activities include:

? promoting individual support to disabled people, their families and people

    working with disabled people via an Information Service helpline and through

    information booklets and publications

? promoting good practice by organising regular events, meetings and support

    networks for staff development and mutual support

? producing publications for disabled people and those working with disabled

    people, including a regular journal and good practice guides

? influencing national policy through campaign work and liaison with

    government and government agencies

? reporting on the latest developments on its regularly updated website

? working with its members.

Skill would like to thank everyone, particularly EA Draffan, who has been

    involved in updating this publication for 2005.

Report produced by

    Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities Chapter House

    18-20 Crucifix Lane

    London SE1 3JW

    020 7450 0620 (voice/text) 020 7450 0650 (fax) E-mail

Information Service

    Open Tuesday 11.30am-1.30pm, and Thursday 1:30pm-


    0800 328 5050 (voice) 0800 068 2422 (text) E-mail


Charity Number 801971


    1. Introduction

     Background to DSAs

     Skill review of DSA administration

     Individual needs

     HEFCE Performance Indicators

     DSA Allowances 2005/06

     Process of applying for DSAs

     Suggested good practice for awards departments

     The role of a student

    2. Disability awareness




     The Disability Discrimination Act

    3. A guide to different impairments and conditions


     Visually impaired students

     Deaf and hard of hearing students

     Students with medical conditions

     Students with mobility or dexterity difficulties

     Students with speech and language difficulties

     Students with specific learning difficulties (including dyslexia)

     Students with autism and Asperger syndrome

     Students with mental health difficulties

    4. Human support

     Types of human support

     Employing support workers

     Study skills support

    5. Equipment

     The role of technology


     Choosing a supplier and insurance

     VAT exemptions

     Obtaining the right equipment

     Equipment that is currently available and guideline prices

     Equipment suppliers

    6. Support networks

    7. Needs assessors and assessment centres

    8. Useful organisations

     General disability organisations

     Human support and equipment

     Students with visual impairments

     Students who are Deaf or hard of hearing students

     Students with medical conditions

     Students with mobility or dexterity difficulties

     Students with speech and language difficulties

     Students with specific learning difficulties

     Students with autism and Asperger syndrome

     Students with mental health difficulties

1. Introduction

This is the sixth edition of the Disability Directory for LEA Awards Officers. This

    directory is intended to complement the more general guidance provided by the

    DfES on Disabled Students‟ Allowances (DSAs) issued in their Education

    (Student Support) Regulations. The guidance for 2005/06 can be found at

The guidance aims to enable awards officers to make more informed decisions

    when processing applications for DSAs.

    Section one introduces DSAs, provides good practice for LEAs and shows a system that a student might go through to apply for DSAs.

    Section two provides information on language and terminology relating to disability, briefly introduces the DDA and explains the purpose of disability equality training.

    Section three gives general information about different impairments and conditions. It outlines what students with these impairments may need and the

    difficulties they may face in higher education.

    Section four looks further at human support, describing what is available. Part of the section describes study skills support and explains why it is helpful for people

    with certain impairments.

    Section five focuses on what equipment is currently available and what the equipment is used for. It lists the contact details of equipment suppliers who will be

    able to provide up-to-date advice about certain pieces of equipment and guideline


    Section six lists existing support networks through which awards officers can discuss issues and share ideas.

    Section seven focuses on needs assessments and assessment centres.

    Section eight provides a list of useful organisations that can give advice to awards officers. It lists the contact details of experts and specialists in the area of

    each impairment or condition. These experts will be able to share additional

    knowledge about the current support and equipment available for students and the

    costs involved.

Background to Disabled Students‟ Allowances (DSAs)

    DSAs have encouraged increasing numbers of disabled people to enter higher education and have enabled more students to study with the support they require. This support helps students reach their potential, placing them on an equal footing with other students in higher education.

    DSA awards officers must satisfy themselves that a student will, because of his or her disability, incur additional expenditure if he or she is to attend their chosen course. Awards officers must also satisfy themselves that all such expenditure is reasonably incurred and appropriate to the individual needs of the student. DSAs are not intended to assist with disability-related expenditure that a student would incur if he or she was not following a course. DSAs are also not intended to be used as a contribution towards the infrastructure, general administration and pastoral costs of the institution which a student attends, although LEAs can use discretion in deciding what administration costs they will pay (see section four for

    more details on employing support workers).

    Students may become disabled or have their condition identified after their course has started, not just at the start of their first year. Other students may choose to disclose their disability, or may need equipment, later in their course.

    Therefore, it is important to accept applications for DSAs at any point during a student’s course.

Skill Review of DSA administration

    In January 2001, Skill was commissioned by the DfES to undertake research to investigate how effectively the policy to provide DSAs for disabled students in higher education in England and Wales was being implemented. The purpose was to identify both good and poor practice in current arrangements and to make recommendations for future improvements. The Department identified four key areas for investigation:

? the speed and availability of the needs assessment process

    ? the administration of DSA applications by LEAs

    ? the role of disability officers at higher education institutions in the DSA

    process, particularly in assessing needs and supporting DSA applications ? the purchasing and supply of equipment, focusing particularly on the choice of


Many of Skill‟s recommendations have already been implemented and a

    summary of Skill‟s report, including an overview of findings and all the recommendations, is available on the DfES website at

In addition, relevant information from the review will be included in this guide, at

    appropriate points. It may be necessary to contact the Department where

    necessary when consulting the Directory in order to be updated on the latest


Individual needs

Every disabled student has different and individual needs. An impairment can be

    a generic title for a number of different conditions, each with its own

    characteristics. For example the term visual impairment covers conditions that

    may result in tunnel vision, blurred or patchy vision or total blindness, and each

    of these affect a student differently.

Even when two people have the same impairment their needs may differ. They

    may be living in, or accustomed to, different environments. Each may have

    different personal coping mechanisms. They may also have different skills. For

    example not all blind people read Braille and not all deaf people use sign

    language. This is why, previous experience and knowledge of students with

    similar conditions, though useful, is no substitute for considering the needs of

    each student on an individual basis. Therefore, assessment bodies will carry out

    individual needs assessments, which can be paid for through the DSAs.

HEFCE Performance Indicators

Each year, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)

    produces a list of Performance Indicators (PIs) to measure the number of

    students in higher education. The figures are available through the Higher

    Education Statistics Agency (HESA)

The DSA Performance Indicator is used to compare the number of DSA-

    receiving students in each institution with a benchmark that takes account of the

    subjects taught, the entry qualifications of the students and the split between

    young and mature students in the institution. According to HESA,

    ‘The proportion of students in receipt of DSA is relatively small. The

    percentage of such students on full-time undergraduate courses in

    2002/03 was 2.5%, with institutional values ranging from 0.0% to 18.2%.

    For part-time students, apart from those at the Open University, 0.9%

    were in receipt of DSA. The Open University, with nearly a third of all

    eligible part-time students, had 1.8% of its students in receipt of DSA.’

However it should be noted that HESA also revealed that

    ‘There was an increase of 0.5% of full-time first degree students who were

    in receipt of the Disabled Students’ Allowance, of 2.6% in 2002/03

    compared to 2.1% in 2001/02. This indicator uses the proportion of

    students who are in receipt of the Disabled Students’ Allowance, as this is

    more robust than the proportions reporting that they are disabled.’


DSA Allowances 2005/2006

Full-time undergraduate students

    ? The specialist equipment allowance (a maximum of ?4,680 to cover the entire

    course) is intended to pay for major items of specialist equipment (eg computer

    hardware, software and/or special devices and furniture) that a student may

    need to benefit fully from his or her course. This allowance may also be used for

    any repair, technical support, insurance or extended warranty costs that arise

    from owning that equipment. This allowance is meant to cover the whole course

    and is not an annual payment. It does not need to be spent all at once, but can

    be used as the course demands or as a student‟s needs change. Any

    equipment bought with the allowance belongs to the student. A student can

    offer the equipment to his or her institution or LEA at the end of the course, but

    the LEA cannot request that the student returns the equipment.

? The non-medical helpers‟ allowance (maximum of ?11,840 per year) is intended

    to fund helpers (eg sign language interpreters, notetakers) that are necessary

    for a student to benefit fully from his or her course. It may be used to pay for

    training on IT and specialist equipment. This allowance may also pay for a

    personal assistant to attend field trips, including those abroad, that are a

    necessary part of a student‟s course. A non-medical helper should include

    charges for travel and subsistence costs as part of his/her wage. However,

    where a non-medical helper has to travel particularly long distances, the DSAs

    may be able to cover the additional costs. The non-medical helpers‟ allowance

    is usually paid in instalments over the year.

? The general allowance (maximum of ?1,565 per year) is intended to cover any

    costs relating to disability and study that are not covered by the other

    allowances (eg extra photocopying, books, disks/tapes, internet connections). It

    can also be used to top up the equipment or non-medical helpers‟ allowances if

    a student needs more than the maximum available.

? Travel costs may be paid using DSAs. This allowance covers additional travel

    costs, which are related to disability. There is no maximum on the amount that

    can be paid. Travel costs can be paid either for private motor vehicles or for taxi

    fares, depending on value for money and what is most appropriate for the


Part-time undergraduate students

    ? To qualify for the DSAs, a part-time course must be at least one year in length

    and must not take more than twice as long to complete as an equivalent full-

    time course. Students on distance learning courses can apply for the part-

    time DSAs, subject to the same conditions. Note that students on Open

    University (OU) courses should apply for the DSAs through the Open

    University‟s DSA office, rather than through their LEA. OU students must be

    studying a minimum of 60 credits to qualify.

? The specialist equipment allowance is a maximum of ?4,680 for the whole


? The part-time non-medical helpers‟ allowance is calculated pro-rata, to a

    maximum of ?8,885 per year. For example, if the course is 50% of the full-

    time equivalent course, the allowance is payable at 50% of ?11,840.

    ? The maximum general disabled students‟ allowance is ?1,170. Again, this is

    calculated pro-rata.

    ? Travel costs may be paid using the DSAs, again covering travel costs related

    to disability. There is no maximum allowance.

Postgraduate students

    ? Students who are studying on a full-time or part-time postgraduate course

    that requires a first degree as an entry qualification and lasts for a minimum of

    one year full-time are eligible for DSAs.

    ? In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there is one allowance per year to

    cover all costs of ?5,640. The specialist equipment allowance, the non-

    medical helpers‟ allowance and general allowance are subject to this overall

    maximum of ?5,640.

? In Scotland, postgraduate DSAs are paid at the same rate as those for


Process of applying for DSAs

The process of administering DSAs (for awards officers) and applying for DSAs

    (for students) differs in different authorities. Skill‟s review of DSA administration

    identified a lack of consistency across LEAs as a key flaw in the process. There

    is a need for greater national consistency and, as far as possible, greater

    simplicity and clarity. Skill therefore recommended that LEA paperwork for

    processing DSA applications, including application forms and letters instructing

    students, be standardised. It is recognised, however, that LEAs may wish to

    continue using locally prepared letters due to the complexity of the DSA process,

    and therefore, the DfES has issued guidance on standard paperwork and

    suggested templates for letters, which a number of LEAs are now using as good


One important change in the administration of DSAs is that students may now

    obtain early needs assessments. LEAs can use DSAs to fund needs

    assessments for prospective students in advance of the final confirmation of their

    place. Needs assessments can be organised and funded for students who have

    been deemed eligible for student support. With the removal of the requirement

    for LEAs to issue Eligibility Notifications, application for HE may be received later than in previous years. Therefore, the Department recommends that in order to

    minimise delays in general DSA processing, LEAs determine eligibility for student

    support from potential DSA applications as a priority and fast-track these

    applications (see DfES guidance chapter for LEAs “DSA – 2005/06” ,). Please

    note that the student must have had their place at a university or college

    confirmed before the full DSA can be paid, ie in August or September, but they

    can be paid before their course actually commences,

The process of applying for DSAs may involve many different people, depending

    on the situation. All or some of the following people may be involved alongside a


    ? disability adviser (if the institution has one)

    ? course tutors

    ? those involved with a needs assessment (if needs are not already known)

    ? equipment or support supplier

    ? social services department.

All of these people may provide an important input into the support, including

    equipment that students use to benefit fully from their courses. When a student

    first contacts an awards officer, it can be helpful if the awards officer suggests

    that he or she contacts the above people and involves them in the application

    process. However, the student must give their consent if the awards officer is to

    involve other people.

Suggested good practice for awards departments

The following list of suggested good practice has been revised to reflect the DSA

    review. The review confirms and adds to advice given in this section in the

    previous edition of the Directory.

1. It is recommended that students have at least one named contact at

    their LEA whom they can telephone and e-mail (see the section „The DSA

    application process‟ in the DfES guidance chapter “DSAs – 2005/06”.

2. It is recommended that DSAs be better publicised through

    dissemination to schools, colleges, libraries and Connexions/careers

    services. Awareness of DSAs amongst students is still low. LEAs may wish

    to consider designing posters to raise awareness and distributing these as e-

    mail attachments.

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