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Disabled Students' Allowance 2016 to 2017 academic year policy changes reference guide

Student Finance England

This article or update has been provided by Student Finance England or Student Loans Company

Publication date: 30 March 2016

This document was originally created as a quick reference guide to highlight the key changes for students applying for DSA to Student Finance England (SFE) for academic year 2016/17 and contains references to the relevant policy information. As with the 15/16 academic year there are two versions of the guidance, one for continuing students and one for new students only. There are transitional protection rules in place which will help you determine which students are ‘new’ and which are ‘continuing’.



Time limit

DSA Consent to Share (CTS) options

Non-medical help

Specialist Equipment


Exceptional Case Process

Students Provided With Equipment Prior To Starting The Course

Time limit

16/17 DSA Guidance – 3.1.1

Applications for DSA have to be submitted within a 9 month window from the start of the AY. However, this can be extended where SFE are satisfied that the application has been made as soon as possible. Students who are applying for DSA support 9 months after the start of their course will need to provide information with their application to explain why it is being submitted after the 9 month time limit. The reasons provided will be considered by SFE and students who are not accepted for that academic year will be encouraged to apply for future years of their course.

AY Start Dates and 9 Month Time Limit

AY Start Date 9 Month Time Limit
01 September 01 June
01 January 01 October
01 April 01 January
01 July 01 April

DSA Consent to Share (CTS) options

The Consent to Share (CTS) options for students completing 16/17 DSA1 applications have been updated. The option to give consent to pay invoices has been removed and option one (for Needs Assessors and disability services) has been split. A student’s consent for SFE to pay invoices is confirmed by the declaration within the DSA1 Slim or DSA1 Full application form. The declaration for the standard Core/GFD application also contains a term relating to paying invoices. We will no longer need to hold the payment of a 16/17 invoice where the student has completed a 16/17 application with SFE. This change will ensure that more invoices will be paid first time, reducing any repeat contact. The student now has the option to provide CTS for both their Needs Assessor and their Disability Adviser or a combination. This change has been made in response to specific requests from students who have asked to have these options included.

Non-medical help

Non-Medical Helper Reference Manual

16/17 DSA Guidance – 5.2

The Non-Medical Helper reference manual is no longer being produced as a separate document; the content from the manual has been incorporated into the 16/17 guidance documents. Two of the role descriptors have been updated. Manual notetaking is now notetaking and electronic notetaking is now specialist notetaker.

Role Descriptors and Responsibility

16/17 DSA Guidance – 5.1

From 16/17 the primary responsibility for the funding of roles which fall into bands 1 and 2 of the NMH manual will transfer to HEPs. The exception is the role of Sighted Guide, which will continue to be funded by DSA. DSA will also continue to fund the most specialist types of NMH which fall into bands 3 and 4, with the exception of Specialist Transcription Services, which will become the primary responsibility of the HEPs. Where a Needs Assessor identifies barriers that require support which is primarily the responsibility of the HEP, the student should be directed to discuss this support with their HEP. Needs Assessors are not expected to make specific recommendations or provide costs/quotes within the Needs Assessment for how HEPs can support their students.

NMH Framework

16/17 DSA Guidance – 5.1

From 18th April 2016 all new agreements for NMH support will only be made with suppliers who are registered with DSA-QAG and subscribe to their quality assurance framework. Therefore Needs Assessors should only provide quotes for NMH support from suppliers that are registered. Where quotes are provided for suppliers that are not registered, SFE will pend the Needs Assessment and request additional quotes. Any agreements with suppliers that were already in place prior to the launch date above will remain for the 16/17 academic year and the amount of hours can be updated. Unregistered providers cannot begin providing a different type of support to a student that they are already supporting. We would ask that our partners encourage current suppliers to become registered as soon as possible. Suppliers who wish to become registered should be referred to DSA-QAG

Role Descriptors Price Caps

16/17 DSA Guidance – 5.1

Cost ranges will be implemented for all students receiving NMH support for the first time in academic year 2016/17, irrespective of whether they are a new or continuing student. Students currently in receipt of NMH support will continue on the terms which are already in place for this support for 2016/17. Quotes for support, that is to be funded by DSA, should only be provided when the rates are within the published cost bands. If a Needs Assessor is not able to source two quotes which are within the cost bands then they should state this within the NAR when providing the quotes. It should also be explained to the student, during the needs assessment interview that they will need to pay any additional cost over the maximum amount. Where quotes are provided that exceed the cost bands and no explanation has been provided, SFE will pend the Needs Assessment and request additional information/quotes. Once a supplier is agreed by the SFE, the pay rate that was in force at that time of the agreement will remain in place for that student for remainder of the current course.

Outsourcing / Agreed Suppliers Unable to Provide Support

16/17 DSA Guidance – 1.8

Any new NMH support agreed (from the 16/17 academic year onwards) should only be provided by the supplier named on the DSA2 letter. The outsourcing of support is no longer allowed; Needs Assessors should ensure that a supplier has the capacity to fulfill the support requirement when providing quotes. In instances where a supplier informs SFE that they are not able to carry out support, SFE will seek an alternative quote from the Needs Assessor. The agreement letter will then be updated to reflect this change.

Specialist Equipment

Printers and Scanners

16/17 DSA Guidance – 6.2

Funding remains available for devices for printing and/or scanning. We would ask that Needs Assessors consider the detail around this that is outlined in the DSA guidance document before recommending these devices to be funded via the DSA. Please ensure that the points that have been considered are covered within the justification provided to SFE within the NAR. It is expected that multifunctional devices (printer/scanners) will be provided in the majority of cases. Recommendations for individual printers and scanners can only be agreed in exceptional cases and robust justification must be provided for consideration by SFE.

Audio Capture Equipment (e.g. DVRs, Samson Go Mic, Recording Pens)

16/17 DSA Guidance – 6.3

Funding remains available for the above items but it is asked that Needs Assessors consider foremost HEP adjustments (such as audio recordings provided to all students) along with alternative solutions which may be appropriate, such as a student’s own laptops or smart phones. In instances where the Needs Assessor has determined that alternatives are not suitable for a student, the rationale for this decision should be made clear within the recommendation that is submitted to SFE. SFE are able to consider funding for additional mobile applications to facilitate these strategies but they are not responsible for replacing smart phones / tablets owned by the student.

‘Standard’ Equipment Bundle

16/17 DSA Guidance – 6.4

There is no longer a standard bundle of equipment which to be supplied with DSA funded laptop computers. All items from the previous bundle remain available where specific disability need is evidenced and where each item is individually recommended by the Needs Assessor. These items will not be available to overcome general ergonomic considerations that would apply to all laptop users. A carry case/laptop bag can be provided without disability related justification when a student is recommended a laptop. It is expected that this item will form part of the equipment quote, however- reimbursements (as per normal reimbursement rules) can be agreed. DSA will pay no more than £20 (net) towards the cost of this item. Desktop computers should continue to be supplied with a standard keyboard, mouse and a 19” monitor.

Standard Computer

16/17 DSA Guidance – 6.1

DSA funding is available towards the cost of a standard computer. In terms of DSA funding a standard computer is defined as a machine that is needed to effectively use speech-to-text and text-to-speech software. A computer that would be required to run less demanding software, such as mind mapping, dictionary or note taking software would be considered to be entry level, for the purposes of DSA and therefore not eligible for a contribution to be made from DSA.


16/17 DSA Guidance – 8.2

DSA funding is no longer available for additional accommodation costs in instances where the accommodation is provided, managed or controlled by the institution or its agent. If, at the time of the NAR, details of the student’s accommodation are available, then this should be provided in the report. If Needs Assessors are able to establish that the accommodation which the student has selected is owned by the HEP or their agent, then a recommendation should not be made for DSA funding in that year. In circumstances where Needs Assessors are not able to confirm who the owner of the accommodation is, SFE will contact the HEP directly. Needs Assessors can continue to make recommendations for additional accommodation costs for subsequent academic years. If, at the time of the NAR, the student is not able to confirm the details of their accommodation then a recommendation can be made for this support, but no support will be agreed by SFE until the specific details are confirmed and reviewed. As is current practice, DSAs can only be used in circumstances where other nonspecialist accommodation in the same block of accommodation/locality is available to allow SFE to determine the reasonable additional cost.

Exceptional Case Process

16/17 DSA Guidance – 9.2 and ANNEX B

An exceptional case process has been introduced to support students in instances where a HEP does not deem that they are able to offer support to their student. Full details of this process including a process map can be found in the guidance. In instances where SFE agree to fund interim support for students we will need to contact the Needs Assessor to request confirmation of the level of support that is required along with quotes.

Students Provided With Equipment Prior To Starting The Course

16/17 DSA Guidance – 6

The 16/17 policy guidance now directs needs assessors to ensure that students are aware of the implications should they take delivery of equipment and subsequently not attend the course. SFE will continue to advise students to contact them if their circumstances change.