Ian Noon: Legal action on Disabled Students Allowance

Posted on January 21, 2015

A member of the NDCS Young People’s Advisory Board, Zanna, has initiated legal action against the Government over proposedchanges to Disabled Students Allowance (DSA).

Disabled students who need support at university can apply to DSA to help cover the costs of things like note-takers or flashing fire alarms in halls of residence.

For many deaf students, this kind of support is vital. Last year though, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced that it plans to cut back DSA in some areas. Instead, universities would be expected to cover the costs.

NDCS has opposed these changes from the start because it’s not clear that universities can or will pick up the costs.

We feel it was wrong for the Government to push ahead with these changes without being clear how it would make sure that universities have adequate funding and are transparent about what they will or won’t offer.

The changes threaten to leave disabled students at risk of having to go without the support they need, without giving them any real new legal rights to do anything about this.

When the Government makes major changes like this, they are expected to do so fairly and to consult widely and openly on whether their proposals are a good idea at all or if there any ways to manage the risks. The Government hasn’t done this in the relation to the proposed cuts to DSA.

NDCS has produced a witness statement explaining how we feel that BIS has failed to deal with the process properly. Some of our key concerns include:

  • There has been no open and public consultation. Whilst various papers have been produced along the way, they haven’t been accessible to disabled young people or publicised widely.
  • The decision-making process has been messy and unclear. The Government say that their changes are proposals only – but much of what they say suggests that they have already made their mind up.

This means that for disabled young people like Zanna, it has been extremely hard to get involved and to have their say on something that will affect them in the future.

Irwin Mitchell solicitors and Zanna’s barristers Ian Wise QC and Steve Broach from Monckton Chambers agree and will be supporting Zanna in arguing that the Government has acted unlawfully.

NDCS is really proud of Zanna for standing up for deaf and disabled young people in this way. Whatever happens, Zanna will have sent a signal that the Government cannot ignore the views of disabled young people.

We’ll keep you updated on how the legal action progresses and what final changes are made to DSA.

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Posted in: ian noon