Liam O’Dell: Why you should respond to Disabled Students’ Allowances consultation

Posted on September 4, 2015

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The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) is asking deaf young people and students to respond to a new government consultation about the changes to Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs).

The consultation, which was launched in July, asks individuals and organisations to share their views on the government’s proposed changes to the allowances. In particular, the government wants to address the balance between the support provided by DSAs, and the support provided by universities and other Higher Education establishments.

One of the main changes proposed by the government is that some support for disabled students should be provided by universities (as ‘reasonable adjustments’ under the Equality Act), not by DSAs.

For example, the government believes that certain types of support (such as notetakers, transcribers, proofreaders and some IT support) as well as changes to student accommodation to make them more accessible, should all count as ‘reasonable adjustments’.

Whilst I have support from my university in place ready for when I start in September, this may not be the same for everyone.

The whole question disabled students face about what is provided by the allowances and what is provided by the university creates this sense of going back and forth between the two.

The last thing disabled students need when they start university is to wonder how their support will be sorted out. First and foremost students should be focusing on the course and the social aspects of going to university, not dismissing some universities because they won’t provide certain support.

In an article on their campaigns blog, Martin McLean from NDCS also talks about the changes “leaving disabled students in limbo where they get no support because the university can’t agree what reasonable adjustments it should make.”

The consultation itself comes after Zanna, a member of NDCS’ Youth Advisory Board, initiated legal action on the government earlier this year. This was after it failed to consult with deaf young people about their proposed changes.

Speaking to NDCS in February, Zanna said: “We should be encouraged to go to university but instead it feels like the Government is intent on making it more difficult.”

In response to the legal action, the government postponed its plans for DSAs. They have since launched this consultation, which can be completed here.

After the government said at first that they felt they didn’t need to consult with deaf young people about the changes, now is a really important time for deaf young people and students to tell the government what they think.

For deaf young people, completing the consultation tells the government how important the changes are to them, and that their views matter. It gives them an opportunity to speak up and improve the lives of deaf young people, as well as other disabled students, for the better.

Amongst other individuals and organisations, HE providers, current and prospective disabled students, disability charities are welcome to respond.

More information about who else the consultation may be of interest to can be found here.

Alongside the official consultation, NDCS have created their own version for young people to complete which the government has agreed to accept. Young people are also encouraged to copy in cyp@ndcs.org.uk when emailing their form to the government.

Young people can find out more about the DSAs consultation in a blog post on the NDCS Buzz website here.

Individuals and organisations have until Thursday 24th September to email their response to DSAconsultation@bis.gsi.gov.uk.

Liam O’Dell is a 18-year old who uses hearing aids in both ears. As well as playing the drums, Liam likes to read and write. You can find out more about Liam over at his blog: www.thelifeofathinker.wordpress.com, or follow him on Twitter: @lifeofathinker

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