If you are a student and have a learning difficulty, health problem or disability you can apply for support from the DSA. I'm not a fan of what DSA is short for, 'Disabled Student Allowance' as I think in 2018 we all recognise most conditions as just that, a condition., or more to the point, just part of who someone is! To lump everything under "disability" is quite old fashioned if you ask me but anyway, the government backed fund is not going to change its name anytime soon and why should it, the government have more important things to be getting right.
It does raise an interesting discussion however, and that is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or how we prefer, Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). More specifically what does the fund offer students with ASC.
I have spoken to numerous students and parents who are preparing for university over the years considering applying for DSA. My practice has often been asked to evidence a students already diagnosed ASC or deliver a full diagnostic assessment for those where any previous assessment was either unclear or did not meet assessment guidelines. This has often led to unnecessary costs for students and parents and confusion over what evidence they need to submit.
To begin lets start by explaining what the DSA fund actually is.
DSA enables those with long term illness, mental health problems or other forms of disability to access additional funding to support their studies. Autism as we all should know is not a mental health problem nor is it a long term illness so it is considered for the purposes of DSA to be a disability. Now, the overwhelming majority of individuals with ASC and certainly nearly all of our clients would not appreciate being referred to as disabled but this is a fund that students don't have to repay and can be used to directly support their studies so we may have to park the moral question over a name for now.
Who is eligible?
You can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) if you live in England and have a disability that affects your ability to study, such as a:
- learning difficulty, for example dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD
- mental health condition like anxiety or depression
- physical disability, for example if you’re partially sighted or have to use crutches
- long-term health condition such as cancer, chronic heart disease or HIV
You must also:
- be an undergraduate or postgraduate student (including Open University or distance learning)
qualify for student finance from Student Finance England
be studying on a course that lasts at least a year
So what can it be used for?
- Specialist equipment, for example a computer if you need one because of your disability
- Non-medical helpers
- Extra travel because of your disability
- Other disability-related costs of studying
Proving your eligible
Disabilities / Long Term Health
You will need to submit a disabilities Evidence Form and have this signed by your GP or an appropriate health care practitioner.
Those with a diagnosis of ASC will need to do this and can download the form here.
Our clients can download the form and have this completed by our team free of charge.
For clients who have not been assessed by us and would like us to complete the form please speak to a member of the team.
A letter from your GP or Consultant treating you.
Alternatively, you may use the Disabilites Evidence Form which can be downloaded here
A ‘diagnostic assessment’ from a psychologist or suitably qualified specialist teacher - you’ll need to get reassessed if you had this done when you were under 16. Our Psychologists are able to provide students with a full diagnostic assessment, just ask us for more details.
Applying for DSA
The application process for DSAs can take four or five months so it is important that you apply as soon as possible. You may be invited to attend a needs assessment centre. A Study Needs Assessment is an informal meeting between the student and an experienced study needs assessor. It helps identify what support the student needs based on their individual needs.
If you have applied for student finance you can apply for DSA at the same time using your online account. Otherwise you can download the paper forms by visiting the student finance forms website here