26 SFE and SFW have issued guidance for students applying for DSAs. The guidance explains that DSAs are available to disabled students to assist with the additional costs they are obliged to incur while studying because they are disabled. These additional costs must be essential to enable the student to undertake their course effectively. DSAs are not intended to assist with support which the student would require even if they were not studying, or to cover study costs that any student might have regardless of whether they are disabled. Providers should anticipate and respond to the needs of its disabled students where it is reasonable to do so.
27 SFE’s 2017/18 DSA Guidance (New Students) says:
“Funding through DSAs should be the top of an apex of support, underpinned by an inclusive environment, and individual reasonable adjustments where required.”
28 DSAs needs assessors consider the impact a student’s disability has on their ability to study. The guidance from SFE and SFW states that it is the role of a DSAs needs assessor to consider the barriers that need to be addressed and set out the strategies that are necessary to overcome the barriers. The needs assessor identifies what type of support is essential to enable the student to undertake their chosen course and makes recommendations for DSAs funded support. The assessor also notes any need for support identified that falls outside the scope of DSAs funding. A provider should determine the support that is required, considering the needs assessment report, and how it should be delivered, taking into account the individual needs of the student. (See, page 10 of SFE’s 2017/18 DSA Guidance (New Students) and page 23 of SFW’s 2017/18 DSA guidance.) Once the maximum amount for DSAs has been reached the provider may need to consider whether it would be reasonable to provide top-up funding so that support for a disabled student can remain in place.
Exceptional Case Process
29 If a provider and student do not agree about the support which the provider has made available, the student can complain to the provider about the decision. The provider may have a special procedure for handling such complaints, or it may direct the student to its student complaints procedures. It is important to ensure that such complaints are dealt with promptly so that the student is not disadvantaged by a delay in the implementation of their support. If the student is not satisfied with the outcome of the provider’s complaints procedure they may bring a complaint to the OIA.
30 Where the student and the provider do not agree, the Exceptional Case Process may consider whether the additional support should be funded through DSAs. Interim DSAs may be available pending the outcome of the complaint and any consideration by the OIA if the student is eligible for DSAs.
CASE STUDY 7:
Student unhappy with support provided by DSAs and provider
A disabled student undergoes a needs assessment. The needs assessor identifies strategies which will work for the student to provide support which is essential for her to access her course. Some of the support is eligible for DSAs funding and SFE assessors agree to fund it. Additional support needs are not eligible for DSAs and the student asks the provider to meet her needs in those areas.
The provider decides not to provide the additional support. The student complains to the provider about its decision. The dispute is referred to SFE’s Exceptional Case Process. The Exceptional Case Team considers the matter and decides to provide interim support while the provider considers the student’s complaint. (Please see SFE and SFW for further information about the types of DSA disputes that would be considered by the Exceptional Case Team.) The provider completes its review of the student’s complaint promptly and agrees to provide the additional support outlined in the needs assessment.