Jen Dodds: Why you should respond to the consultation on Disabled Students Allowance (BSL)

Posted on December 7, 2015

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Last week, when the Government announced that it was making cuts to Disabled Students Allowance (DSA), many of us were very concerned that this would mean that deaf people wouldn’t be able to go to university, because there’d be no funding for BSL/English interpreters.

To watch Jen sign her article in BSL, click play below, or scroll down to continue in written English.

Then, it became clearer that although funding for some things was being cut, interpreting wasn’t going to be affected. I thought it would be a good idea to post and clarify a few things.

In case you’re not sure what DSA is, it’s Government funding that pays for the access that deaf and disabled people need in order to go to university.   It can pay for things that help to make disabled students’ university experiences more equal, like equipment or support workers.

Cutting DSA funding means it will now become universities’ responsibility to pay for some of these things.

What does this mean?

The DSA cuts will affect lots of different disabled people, but I’m only focussing on the cuts that will affect deaf people, because that’s what I know about.

Cuts are being made to “non medical helpers”, who are support workers who work with disabled people to make sure they can access university. Non medical helpers are split into in four groups; Band 1, Band 2, Band 3 and Band 4.

At the moment, Bands 3 and 4 are not being cut. Support workers like electronic notetakers and interpreters are in those groups.

However, cuts are being made to support workers Bands 1 and 2. This includes manual notetakers (specially trained notetakers who write things down the old fashioned way!) – universities will have to pay for them.

Does this mean that interpreters are going to be safe? Maybe not.

YOUR help is needed!

The Government is still trying to work out how they can save more money, and lower the qualification/experience requirements (and therefore, wages) for support workers in Bands 3 and 4, including electronic notetakers and interpreters.

At the moment, the Government is having a “consultation” with anyone who’s interested, to see if they can manage to save money. We need to tell them that we want to keep standards high and carry on receiving good quality access in universities.

This consultation only became public last Monday, and is going to close on Wednesday 9th December! It doesn’t seem to have been publicised well, which is why I’m telling you about it now, so that you can get involved.

You can take part in the consultation by clicking HERE. You don’t need to give your name, so no one will know who you are, and you can fill it all in, or just a little bit.

It’s a bit odd, with PowerPoint-style slides that you need to click on. There’s a little box at the bottom that you can type your comments in. Some of the slides that you might be most interested in are:

  • Slide 13: Manual notetakers – you could explain that deaf students need notetakers because it’s really hard to watch interpreters and write notes at the same time.
  • Slide 14: CSWs – you might like to say if you would rather work with a qualified BSL/English interpreter instead.
  • Slide 15: Electronic notetakers – why they’re important (as above).
  • Slide 20: BSL/English interpreters – what kind of qualifications they should have and why it’s important.
  • Slide 21: Language support tutors for deaf students – why are they important?

Don’t forget; it’s anonymous and you can say whatever you like.

Let’s think about the future…

It’s really, really important that we try and fill this consultation in, so that the Government can’t get away with a token gesture.

We do need to tell them our views, especially that we need high quality access, not a cheap and low quality framework!

We must think about the future for today’s deaf children and young people. They should be able to access high quality university education and aspire to do whatever they want to.

Jen Dodds is a Contributing Editor for The Limping Chicken. When she’s not looking after chickens or children, Jen can be found translating, proofreading and editing stuff over at Team HaDo Ltd (teamhado.com). On Twitter, Jen is @deafpower.

 

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.

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