This article, explains how to help your child transition into university life and ensure they are supported throughout their studies. It includes details of some of the support services available and how to access them. There are also some links to websites with more information on Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA).
We are all familiar with the struggle of getting our children through primary and secondary education: the battles to get their needs identified and ensure they are supported so that they can perform to the best of their ability. University education and the consequent move to independent study and living can seem a goal too far and unattainable. Sheffield Parent Carer Forum trustee Jayne Woodward, who also works as a Disability Adviser at the University of Sheffield, explains how to access useful support services for students with special educational needs or disabilities.
Universities have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure disabled students are not treated unfavourably by reason of their disability and will have specialist services to support them. These services will talk to students who disclose a disability about their support needs and liaise with the appropriate internal departments, services and external agencies. Typical support may include
- exam access arrangements (such as extra time, rest breaks, technology or a separate exam room)
- a learning support plan advising tutors how to support the student appropriately
- support facilities in the library.
Additional support is available through workers such as note takers, library support, study skills tutors and mentors.
The key to accessing support is to have some form of written documentation to confirm the student’s disability and support needs. This could be medical letters or diagnostic assessments. For specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, some universities will accept confirmation of exam access arrangements as interim evidence whilst full diagnostic assessments are obtained. Many universities will fund (wholly or in part) the cost of these diagnostic assessments.
Whilst the disability service will be responsible for putting in place internal institutional support (exams, learning plans, etc.), they can also help students apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA), which will pay for most support that has a financial cost.
Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA)
The process for applying for DSA is usually piggy-backed onto the student loan system. However, you do not need to claim for financial support to be eligible. DSA are not means-tested, and students do not have to repay them.
To qualify for DSA, the student must have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on their ability to carry out normal daily activities. This will include specific learning difficulties.
An Education Health and Care Plan is not sufficient evidence in itself and will need to be supported by other documentation. Once a student has been confirmed as eligible for DSA, they will usually be invited to attend a regional assessment centre. There are centres located around the country, and we currently have four in Sheffield. At the appointment, an assessor will discuss the student’s support needs and suggest strategies, human support and technology that can assist them to break down the barriers that exist for them. DSA will then fund the cost of the agreed support. After the appointment, the assessor will write a report which can also help the disability service put the most appropriate support in place for the student.
More information about DSA
Detailed information about what DSA can pay for, eligibility criteria and the application process is available on the government website: Help if you're a student with a learning difficulty, health problem or disability
Disability Rights UK have published a useful factsheet about DSA: Applying for Disabled Students’ Allowances
Information owner: Preparing for Adulthood Manager
Last updated: 15/03/2019