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

Professor Alan Hurst

Independent

AMOSSHE, The Student Services Organisation

Nicola Barden

AMOSSHE

The Consortium of Higher Education Support Services with Deaf Students

Lynne Barnes

CHESS

AMOSSHE, The Student Services Organisation

Ben Bailey

AMOSSHE

Department for Education

Greg Boone

DfE

Welsh Government

Meinir Collyer

WG

Association of Dyslexia Specialists in Higher Education

Lisa Cooper

ADSHE 

Disabled Students Allowance Quality Assurance Group

Karen Docherty

 DSA-QAG

Autism and Uni Project

Marc Fabri

 

SpLD Assessment Standards Committee

Lynn Greenwold

PTOSS, SASC

Independent Assessment Centres

Amanda Kent

IAC

Student Finance Wales

Keith Lewis

SFW

Department for Education

Wendy Morgan-Gray

DfE

National Network of Assessment Centres

Lesley Morrice

NNAC

National Association of Student Money Advisers

Mo Onyett

NASMA

Academics Registrars Council ARC

Catherine Salisbury

ARC

National Union of Students

Richard Stewart

NUS

Student Finance Wales Disabled Student Allowance

Maddie Taylor

SFW DSA

Student Finance Wales

Craig Thomas

SFW

Association of NMH Provider

Fiona Valentine

ANMHP

Student Loans Company

Matthew Hall

SLC

Student Loans Company

Dawn Anderson

SLC

Student Loans Company

Anthony Hill

SLC

Meeting dates

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

Key outputs from the previous meetings

04 December 2018

DSA

DSA applications had risen significantly, largely due to the introduction of DSA online.  Applications received without supporting medical evidence had fallen, but many students were still taking considerable time to submit the necessary evidence.  Work to understand the reasons behind this was underway. The launch of DSA online was considered a success.

SFE continued to monitor application profiles, and rates of students claiming DSA with mental health conditions and autism had risen. 

The DSA contact team had exceeded their target for response rate, and was handling calls previously managed by the contact centre.  Call reasons were in line with the previous month’s data.

Several updates were planned for 2019, including a project that would allow students to upload their medical evidence. Undergraduate funding (both full- and part-time) for 2019/20 was increasing in line with inflation, and the post-graduate allowance would increase to £20,000. 

Workshops to examine the internal process to deal with missed and cancelled NMH sessions were scheduled for early 2019. 

DfE

Evaluation research was complete, with the report due to be published in January 2019. This would cover student feedback on DSA awareness and assessment, support available through DSA and HEPs and the impact of DSA on their university successes.

The Mandatory Criteria Review was almost complete, and an SSIN on this would follow shortly. 

The Fee Cap Review was felt by some to unfairly penalise assessment centres which had historically honoured requests not to increase their fees, and these centres could not now raise fees in line with the maximum chargeable by newly-established centres. The discussion continued offline between NNAC and DfE.

There had been new guidance on suitable venues for NMH support. The group emphasised the need for the choice of such venues to be student-led in order to meet the student’s needs.  Students were not always aware that they could request an alternative venue or submit feedback.

WG

Allowances for 2019/20 were being looked at in line with inflation and would need ministerial approval.

ATSG

The discontinuation of Dragon for Mac had led to several meetings of the ATSG. Assessors had been instructed to no longer recommend Dragon for Mac from 26 November 2018. Discussions to find suitable alternatives for students using Mac were ongoing.

AT Tender Review

The group discussed the recently announced change to the Assistive Technology tender process. Questions were raised and addressed, generally falling into the following themes:

  • benefits to the student;
  • provision of training;
  • quality assurance.

Discussions would continue at the next DSSG meeting.

Provision of Medical Evidence

A newly-established company was advertising its DSA assessment services for a one-off fee, and claiming to be operating in conjunction with Student Finance England. This was categorically not the case.

The situation may represent an opportunity to address a lack of awareness of the availability of DSA and the required supporting medical evidence. Currently, the cost, time, and frustration involved in obtaining and submitting medical evidence often led students to give up on their education before it began.

Colorimetry Funding

Funding for colorimetry testing had been withdrawn at two weeks’ notice and with little explanation.  ADSHE sought clarification on the implications of this decision for ongoing student support. ADSHE continued the discussion on this with SLC and DfE offline.

Students Being Charged for DSA After Course Completion

A student had been contacted directly for payment of DSA support accessed after withdrawal from their studies. It was possible that students continued to access DSA support in good faith while deciding whether to continue their studies or not, but from the point of withdrawal, they were no longer entitled to it. 

NMH Cancellations

Members again expressed concerns about the policy regarding missed sessions of NMH support, and the discussion continued offline between ANMH and DfE.

GDPR

GDPR agreements were with more than 2000 NMH providers, covering the relationship between them and SLC. The group queried whether this relationship was correctly defined, and it was agreed that this discussion would be carried over to the next meeting on 2 April 2019, to be held in the SLC offices in Darlington.