Disabled students fear loss of essential support

Disabled students could miss out on vital support when funding much of the help is transferred to universities next year, say campaigners.

Universities minister Jo Johnson has announced plans for "better targeting" of Disabled Students' Allowances. From next September, universities will have "primary responsibility" for meeting disabled students' needs. The National Deaf Children's Society said it was "bitterly disappointed" by the announcement. "We have no way of knowing if universities will pick up the cost," said its chief executive, Susan Daniels.

The announcement sets out which support will continue to be provided by the Disabled Students' Allowance (DSAs) and which costs universities must meet. DSAs help disabled students afford the specialist equipment, support workers and extra travel costs they need. They are not repayable and not means-tested. In 2012-13, they provided £146m to 64,500 higher education students, a rise of 44% on the £101m paid out in 2009-10 to 47,400 students. In the statement, Mr Johnson said a review of the 25-year-old scheme had long been overdue. He wants universities to fulfil their legal duties to disabled students under the 2010 Equality Act. "Higher education providers should discharge their duties under the Equality Act to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled students, as other organisations and businesses do." "More inclusive learning environments" and better use of technology were essential, he said. The allowances will still be the primary source of funding for certain types of support, for example for guides for blind or partially sighted students, but much other support must be funded by universities.
Universities will be expected to meet more of the costs of specialist accommodation and of printing and scanning, while computer accessories will be funded "by exception only." Read more of this story here. 
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