Disabled Students Stakeholders Group

The Disabled Students Stakeholders Group (DSSG) advises and supports the delivery of specialist support to disabled students.

The purpose of the group is to:

  • Review and monitor the application processing arrangements for the service to disabled students at key points in the annual application cycle in order to:
    • bring external insights and experience to bear in identifying and resolving issues
    • raise concerns and challenge processes
    • support SLC through joining-up communications to students and any other appropriate actions to help achieve the smooth delivery of the Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) service
  • Provide specialist input into the Information, Advice and Guidance developed specifically to explain DSA
  • Review changes and improvements to the DSA service to gain the expert advice and input of stakeholders regarding the design of changes and improvements.

Membership

Independent Chair

Alan Hurst

Alan Hurst

AMOSSHE, The Student Services Organisation

Ben Bailey

AMOSSHE

Assistive Technology Subgroup Chair

Catherine Salisbury

Association of Dyslexia Specialists in Higher Education

Lisa Cooper

ADSHE

Association of NMH Provider

Fiona Valentine

The Consortium of Higher Education Support Services with Deaf Students

Lynne Barnes

CHESS

Department for Education

Elaine Underwood

DfE

Disabled Students Allowance Quality Assurance Group

Karen Docherty

DSA-QAG

Welsh Government

Meinir Collyer

WG

Independent Assessment Centres

Paul Diley

IAC

National Association of Disability Practitioners

Paddy Turner

NADP

National Association of Student Money Advisers

Mo Onyett

NASMA

National Network of Assessment Centres

Lesley Morrice

NNAC

National Union of Students

Rebecca Young 

NUS

SpLD Assessment Standards Committee

Lynn Greenwold

SASC

University Mental Health Advisors Network

Lydia Pell

UMHAN

Autism and Uni Project

Marc Fabri

Student Loans Company

various

SLC

Meeting dates

The Disabled Students Stakeholders Group meets quarterly with more frequent communication, as necessary, during peak periods in the academic cycle.

Key agenda points from the previous meetings


6 December 2016

The Group received the DSA operational updates from both Student Finance England and Student Finance Wales for AY 2016/17. MI showed that both SFE and SFW have maintained SLA’s during peak. DfE and The Welsh Government provided an update on 2016/17 policy and are keen to receive any feedback from the group in regards to any of these changes. The group received an update from Disabled Students Allowances Quality Assurance Group (DSA QAG) in regards to the findings of a recent NMH pilot. The group were updated in regards to improvements of the website and how improvements will impact services moving forward.

6 September 2016

The Group received DSA operational updates from both Student Finance England and Student Finance Wales for AY 2016/17. MI showed that both SFE and SFW a similar performance from 2015/16.

DfE provided an update that 2016/17 guidance has been updated. An update was also provided in regards to working closely with NUS student voice group to ensure barriers are being addressed for Students.

ESNR provided an update that guidance for 2016/17 had been updated. Updates to DSA funding had also been updates which included friends and family and also conflict of interest for students who set up a company or have financial interest in that company.

19 May 2016

The group discussed DSA application statistics for Student Finance England (SFE) and Student Finance Wales (SFW). SLC highlighted the large numbers of Study Needs Assessment Reports (NARs) which were currently being rejected due to assessors not following the 16/17 guidance.

Members agreed to support SLC with this and help ensure Needs Assessors were following the new guidance. Members also discussed the results of 15/16 DSA Customer Satisfaction Survey and agreed to work with SLC to address some of the issues highlighted in the report.

BIS also provided an update on the Disabled Students Sector Leadership Group, which has been established to support the higher education sector in responding to the changes to Disabled Student Allowances (DSAs) in England and to explore how to enhance inclusivity in the learning environment.

1 December 2015

DSA Operational performance update

SLC provided members with an update on the Student Finance England (SFE) and Student Finance Wales (SFW) DSA services.

Processing of SFE DSA applications continues to go well. As of 23rd November SLC have received 51,407 SFE DSA applications for AY 2015/16.  Turnaround times for DSA1 applications and Needs Assessment Reports are 6 working days respectively. Members were also provided with a detailed breakdown of pended applications by disability type. You can access the latest SFE DSA processing statistics at www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/products/disabled-students'-allowances/dsas-updates-for-practitioners

As of 19th November SLC had received 2,608 SFW DSA applications for AY 2015/2016. Turnaround times for DSA1 applications and Needs Assessment Reports are 5 working days respectively.

BIS update

Quality of Non Medical Helper (NMH) support

BIS confirmed ongoing work on ensuring the quality of NMH support. BIS thanked members who attended recent feedback sessions regarding the quality of NMH An online collaboration tool is being used to elicit detailed information about the different sections of the draft quality assurance framework, and in invite to participate has been issued to stakeholders who attended the roundtables on the QAF.

Two quotes for NMH services

BIS also discussed the requirement for all institutions providing support to SFE DSA students to shortly comply with the requirements for two quotes for NMH services. BIS recognise the concerns raised by institutions and are aware of the limitations of the two quotes policy. BIS also advised that they are open to stakeholders’ suggestions of how to mitigate issues and safeguard vulnerable students. Members provided a number of suggestions on how to achieve this, which BIS agreed to consider.

Conflict of Interests

BIS are working with DSA QAG to review the COI returns and ensure that any conflicts are being managed appropriately

Quality Assurance of Needs Assessment Reports

BIS are also working on a framework for assuring the quality of the content of needs assessment reports.

Welsh Policy update

The Welsh government issued a Student Finance Wales Information Note in March regarding proposed changes to the DSAs for Welsh domiciled students. Welsh government intend to launch a full public consultation on these proposed changes sometime in 2016. You can view the Student Finance Wales Information Note at http://www.studentfinancewales.co.uk/practitioners/policy-information/information-notices.aspx#.VmbG2Pntl5E

Results of the 2015 DSA customer satisfaction survey

Each Academic Year, SLC’s Customer Insight team conducts a satisfaction survey with SFE DSA applicants to determine levels of satisfaction with DSA processes, communications and help received from SFE. A random sample of 432 DSA customers took part in the survey.

There has been a marked improvement in 14/15 with overall satisfaction levels increasing from 51.5% to 65.7%, an increase of 14.2% from the academic year 13/14. This said there are still recurring areas of issues/concerns. Members discussed issues around a lack of understanding regarding evidence requirements for DSA and agreed to support SLC to improve this information. Members also discussed a need for SLC, Needs Assessors and Disability Advisors to work more closely and share information/best practices.

Stakeholder Engagement update

Richard Scott provided an update from the other Stakeholder Working Groups. You can read updates from the other Stakeholder Working Groups at www.slc.co.uk/stakeholders-partners/stakeholder-working-groups.

8 September 2015

DSA Operational performance update

SLC provided members with an update on the Student Finance England (SFE) and Student Finance Wales (SFW) DSA services. Processing of SFE DSA applications continues to go well. To date we have received 30,601 DSA applications for AY 2015/16. Turnaround times for DSA1 applications and Needs Assessment Reports are 7 and 8 working days respectively. Members were also provided with a detailed breakdown of pended applications by disability type. You can access the latest SFE DSA processing statistics atwww.practitioners.slc.co.uk/products/disabled-students'-allowances/dsas-updates-for-practitioners

To date we have received 1,681 SFW DSA applications for AY 2015/2016

SLC advised members that the SFE DSA medical evidence proforma is now available online for students to download and can be used for primary evidence submissions. You can download the SFE DSA medical evidence proforma atwww.practitioners.slc.co.uk/products/disabled-students-allowances/dsas-updates-for-practitioners

BIS update

BIS provided a written update to advise that the ‘Consultation on targeting funding for disabled students in Higher Education from 2016/17 onwards’ is ongoing. BIS are collating the responses as they come in and any additional evidence that is provided will be analysed and used as part of the ongoing Equality Analysis. The consultation closes on 24 September and members were advised that anyone who wishes to respond should do so by 24 September as late responses will not be accepted.

The work on the quality assurance framework for NMH provision is underway. A communication was sent out on 2 June setting out a number of strands to this work. These are:

  • Registration
  • Quality Assurance framework
  • Audit
  • Cost controls
  • Competition
  • Managing conflicts of interest

NADP International Conference

Paddy Turner provided a brief update on the NADP International Conference. The conference was very well attended by practitioners in the UK and overseas. The main focus of the conference was universal/inclusive design. Members were provided with an outline of the presentations and asked to contact Paddy if they were interested in receiving presentations from specific speakers. For NADP members these presentations will be available from the NADP website.

Impacts of the HEFCE reports

Members discussed the impacts of the HEFCE reports on Support for higher education students with Specific Learning Difficulties and Understanding provision for students with mental health problems and intensive support needs. AMOSSHE, UMHAN, NADP, NNAC, ADSHE and ASASA provided a perspective from their members. Some groups are also drafting their own official responses to the reports.

One to one study skill sessions via Skype

Members discussed the practice of delivering study skills sessions via Skype and over emails. Members agreed to help SLC and BIS develop guidance to be included in the NMH Services Reference Manual regarding this.

Stakeholder Engagement update

Richard Scott provided an update from the other Stakeholder Working Groups. You can read updates from the other Stakeholder Working Groups at www.slc.co.uk/stakeholders-partners/stakeholder-working-groups.

16 June 2015

DSA Operational performance update

SLC provided members with an update on the Student Finance England (SFE) and Student Finance Wales (SFW) DSA services.

Processing of SFE DSA applications continues to go well. To date we have received 65,169 DSA applications for AY 2014/15 and 11,634 for AY 2015/16. Turnaround times for DSA1 applications and Needs Assessment Reports remain 9 and 8 working days respectively. Members were also provided with a detailed breakdown of pended applications by disability type. You can access the latest SFE DSA processing statistics at www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/products/disabled-students'-allowances/dsas-updates-for-practitioners To date we have received over 2,808 SFW DSA applications for AY 2014/15 and 580 for AY 2015/2016.

SLC advised members that we plan to make the SFE DSA medical evidence proforma available online for students to download. SLC asked members for their
assistance with ensuring guidance was clear regarding who should fill in this form. It is hoped that by making the form available online it will significantly reduce applications pended for additional evidence.

Members raised issues around the requirement to provide two quotes for NMH and institutions with exemptions in place. Members were advised that Needs Assessors should provide two quotes for NMH but if the student’s institution has an exemption in place one of the quotes should be from the institutions preferred supplier. An up to date list of all institutions with an exemption in place can be found at www.practitioners.slc.co.uk/products/disabled-students'-allowances/dsas-updates-for-practitioners

BIS update

BIS provided an update on their current areas of work and focus, as set out in the statement issued on 2nd June (available at www.slc.co.uk/stakeholders-partners/latest-news) this statement outlined BIS’s intentions to (amongst other things) introduce competition, quality assurance and consistency of NMH provision. BIS are working with the new Minister and are briefing him on all the areas of funding, including DSAs. BIS will launch a 12 week consultation imminently on HEI reasonable adjustments and the other aspects delayed from 2015/16, giving stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the proposed plans.

BIS also discussed conflicts of interest within the sector. BIS have been working with an Oversight Group (which is made up of representatives from the Welsh Assembly, the Department of Health, SLC, HEFCE, NUS, Universities UK and guest members as appropriate) and DSA QAG on a conflict of interest document and a register of interests. Both these documents will be living documents and updated regularly. BIS are also working with DSA QAG on how relationships will be reviewed to establish if there is a conflict. Currently BIS do not have details on how this will be managed but are looking to work in a fair, open and equitable way. NMH providers are currently not asked to complete a register of interests, but any relationships they have with assessment centres or ATSPs should be registered through those parties.

HEFCE review of the provision and support for disabled students in HE

HEFCE provided a high level overview of the HEFCE review of provision and support for disabled students in HE. Members were advised that the full report would be published shortly.

24+ Discretionary Learner Support fund

The SFA provided an overview of the 24+ Advanced Learning Loans Bursary Fund, detailing how institutions were using the fund to support learners. Members were advised that no issues had been raised regarding the fund being insufficient to support disabled students at the SFA and SLC’s 24+ Advanced Learning Loans working group.

Stakeholder Engagement update

Eleanor Currie provided an update from the other Stakeholder Working Groups. You can read updates from the other Stakeholder Working Groups at www.slc.co.uk/stakeholders-partners/stakeholder-working-groups.

3 March 2015

The group discussed the impacts of the AY 15/16 DSA guidance still being in draft form and Needs Assessors being unable to assess students applying for DSAs for the first time in AY 15/16. SLC agreed to look at ways to support Needs Assessment Centres during this and additional information which could be provided to students.

Key stakeholder organisations discussed how they are preparing for the planned 16/17 changes to DSAs and help SLC and other stakeholders identify opportunities for collaborative working.

Members also received an overview of DSA operational statistics for the Student Finance Wales and English services.

18 November 2014

The group received an operational update on SFE and SFW processing of DSA applications for Academic Years 13/14 and 14/15. Members discussed the reasons behind the increase in applications and thanked Anthony and his team for their efforts and maintaining SLAs despite the increase in workload.

Members discussed the outputs from the medical evidence and manual notetaking subgroup meetings. Following the medical evidence subgroup meeting members were reassured by SLC’s approach to ensuring medical evidence meets the criteria set out within the Equality Act. Members of the DSSG thanked SLC for their work in this area.

Regarding the manual notetaking subgroup members put forward a number of recommendations for SLC and BIS to consider.

Members also received an updated from BIS on the assistive technology product evaluation pilot and HEFCE’s research in to HEIs provision for disabled students.    

If you have a question regarding the DSSG please contact partner_services@slc.co.uk. If you have an item you would like raised at the next meeting of the DSSG please contact your relevant DSSG representative.