Being student with chronic illness or disability isn’t easy, but university can be a very rewarding experience. Disabled students allowance was absolute lifesaver to me! It provides equipment and support to help you achieve your potential, regardless of your health situation.
What is Disabled Students Allowance?
Its an allowance for equipment and services for those who are going to university or a higher education college. It applies to anyone with disabilities, chronic health issues, learning difficulties, sensory impairments or mental health difficulties. It’s only given to those studying a level 4 course or above (HND/foundation degree or higher). You don’t receive the money directly. Its paid to suppliers on your behalf, or reimbursed to you after you send back receipts for general allowance items. The disabled students allowance isn’t applicable to students doing courses with NHS funding. They have their own version of the disabled students allowance.
The process can seem a little daunting, but doesn’t need to be. Once you’ve submitted a lengthy form (which is now available online) and documentation about your condition, you undergo a needs assessment. It can sound a little scary but it really isn’t. Needs assessments are conducted by well trained disability advisors. They will assess your particular needs and what your course will require you to do. They will make recommendations for the DSA but also to your university as how they can best support you. The assessor may not know much about your particular condition. You may want to take some information about your condition to your needs assessment. I took a whole load of doctors letters along, but I really didn’t need to! What support and equipment you will get will very much depend on both your course and your condition as well as your living circumstances.
When I started university I was living 40 miles away. There was no accessible accommodation at the university which suitable for family living. So they paid for taxis to and from university. Many students are given support from assistant. They may do things like opening doors, carrying a books and equipment, note taking or scribing. What equipment you will receive will vary. I had a rise and fall desk and a laptop. There is also a general allowance for additional books, printing costs, and such.
There are limits to what they can offer though!
|Type of student||Specialist equipment allowance||Non-medical helper allowance||General allowance|
|Full-time||Up to £5,358 for the whole course||Up to £21,305 a year||Up to £1,790 a year|
|Part-time||Up to £5,358 for the whole course||Up to £15,978 a year||Up to £1,342 a year|
Postgraduate students can get a single allowance of up to £10,652 a year.
Those might seem like large sums of money, but they can and do run out! As a postgraduate I found by the spring term there were no funds left. Luckily my university plugged the gap but some have found that they have had to rely upon charities to help instead!
Be aware that Disabled Students Allowance now expects you to contribute £200 towards any laptop that they give you. They have brought this in as they feel all students pay for laptops. I think this new policy is really unfair. When I started university I wouldn’t have been able to afford a laptop full stop. I would have had to use library computers if this policy had been in place. £200 is a lot of money for some people, particularly vulnerable students who don’t have the bank of mum and dad to rely upon.
Non-medical helpers only
Disabled Student Allowance doesn’t cover is any kind of medical or personal care assistance. If you will need assistance with your personal care needs whilst at uni (if thats whilst in halls or whilst in lectures and in between) then you will need to talk to your local social services department about how they can support you at university.
I’ll be writing more about my experiences at university next week!