Publication date: 26 November 2018
Some of you may recall that in 2016, consideration was given to modernising the procurement and supply of Disabled Student Allowance (DSA) funded hardware, software, and specialist equipment items. The proposed changes were based on the need to embed a sustainable supply model that is both compliant with commercial legislation and better placed to deliver value to students and the tax payer. Consideration was also given to improving the disabled student experience, addressing feedback which shows that students continue to find dealing with disparate organisations in order to access awarded support both confusing and frustrating. Assistive Technology (AT) training is a vital component in ensuring that disabled students are able to optimise the use of the software they have been awarded, yet the take up of their training remains low.
Unfortunately, due to the machinery of government changes and many other pressing student finance matters, it was not possible to prioritise this work. The Department for Education (DfE) and Student Loans Company (SLC) have continued to reflect on the work that was undertaken to support this development, along with the rich information that was gained through engagement with the existing market and sector representatives. It is felt the need for change is as compelling as ever and now is a much more opportune time to progress with this development.
Therefore, this is a note to confirm that DfE has instructed SLC to progress with launching a tender exercise to identify preferred supplier(s) who will provide students with both equipment and AT training.
The intention is for SLC to issue a Prior Information Notice (PIN) in the near term, which will set out the procurement intention to existing and prospective suppliers. SLC will be looking to engage further to gain key market information to help prepare for the procurement process. The preferred supplier(s) will contract with the Student Loans Company directly and this will introduce clear lines of accountability. The expectation will be for the new contracts to be in place for Spring 2019.
In addition to expected improvements in sustainability, process times and a reduction in the number of touch points for DSA customers, a key objective of the new supply model will be to ensure a seamless transition. Measures will be in place to mitigate impacts for any DSA customers already in study or those in the process of applying for support.