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Hands off student grants say professionals

A Government review of whether disabled students need a grant to cover the cost of a computer has been dismissed by bodies representing professionals who work with disabled students. 

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), queried the need to provide equipment for disabled students such as a computer in a series of questions aimed at professionals involved in the £126m Disabled Students Allowances grant scheme. 

The British Assistive Technology Association (BATA) and the National Association of Disability Professionals (NADP) described some of the questions posed by BIS as “leading and superficial”. 

BIS asked those involved in the Disabled Students Allowances scheme to list IT equipment that was required by all students and detail IT equipment that should continue to be regarded as additional. 

But the bodies, representing members from over 1,000 organisations involved in supporting students and supplying IT, rejected the idea that any student was required to have IT equipment to study and said that disabled students needed access to equipment for different reasons to non-disabled students. 

“Equipment supplied under DSA is very much a system of support; a package of IT and AT that includes course-long support with training, and is not merely a set of items,” explained BATA in its submission to BIS. 

The Association pointed out that out of a total DSAs spend of £125.7m in 2010/2011 only £12.9m was accounted for by standard equipment. Similarly, standard equipment only accounted for £330 of a typical £1200 computer package. 

NADP argued “that the savings to be gained by assuming that all students require a particular piece of IT equipment, and using this assumption as the basis for removing IT equipment from the DSAs process, would come at an extremely high cost. 

“Disabled students may be placed at a severe financial disadvantage; disabled people may drop out of the DSAs system altogether, and not be fully supported on their programmes.” 

The financial consequences of a more complicated assessment process may well outweigh any potential savings, the NADP concluded. 

Being more adaptable to advances in technology and the provision of equipment, would ultimately reduce the need to rely on support workers and reduce costs. 

All the equipment that a disabled student had been assessed as needing to study effectively is ‘additional’ to that required by the majority of students, said the NADP. 

“The primary purpose of the DSAs Study Needs Assessment is to determine what constitutes an additional cost.”

Those four controversial questions from BIS: 

  • Based on your knowledge of Disabled Students’ Allowances, disabled students and the general student population, is there any IT equipment currently supplied through DSAs that you think is generally required by the majority of students entering HE?
  • If you haven’t done so, please indicate what IT equipment you feel is generally required by all students.
  • What types of IT equipment do you believe should continue to be regarded as additional i.e. it is required specifically by disabled students as a result of their disability? Please refer to any evidence to support your answer.
  • Is there any IT hardware or software that you feel disabled students need that they are currently unable to get? 

       Submissions to BIS can be found here:

BATA
NADP 
AMOSSHE
BDA

 



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