Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) – Find your way

This is your guide to the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) process. When you’re first starting out it can all seem a bit daunting. We’re here to help! This handy step-by-step guide will show you all the things you need to do to get up and running with your DSA support.

What *is* the DSA?

The Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is a non-repayable educational allowance for disabled students in  Higher Education. The scheme is designed to level the playing field, and ensure that your specific needs are met so you can fully participate in university life.

The DSA can help with the cost of specialist support, equipment or assistive software that you may require as a result of your disability, long-term health condition, sensory impairment, mental health, autistic spectrum condition or specific learning difference (SpLD) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or AD(H)D.

The aim of the DSA is to support and accommodate your individual needs.

What support might I get?

If your application for DSA is successful, you will attend a Study Needs Assessment where your strengths and support needs are identified. The support you receive will be tailored to support you to develop effective learning strategies. The types of support you might receive include:

  • Specialist equipment, software and assistive technology training.*
  • Non-medical helpers, such as a note-taker, library assistant, specialist mentor or specialist study support tutor
  • Extra travel costs you have to pay because of your disability
  • Other disability-related costs of studying

*Students from England funded by Student Finance England: where a computer is recommended and agreed you will be required to pay £200 towards the cost which is the minimum cost that any student is likely to incur when buying a computer. There may be funding through your university to help with this cost – enquire with student services.

If you are eligible for DSA, and feel that support through the DSA would be beneficial for your learning, apply for DSA.

Eligibility

The DSA is available to home students (from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland). For more information see the following DSA pages:

*Students from England and Wales must meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010.

If you are an EU or international student contact your University/College Disability and Dyslexia Service Adviser in order to discuss the support available to you.

Applying for the DSA - Evidence

To qualify for DSA you will need to provide evidence of your disability, long-term health condition, sensory impairment, mental health condition, autistic spectrum condition or specific learning difference such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or AD(H)D.

Evidence for Specific Learning Differences

Screening

If you experience difficulties with learning and have not previously been diagnosed with a Specific Learning Difference, it is advisable to undertake an initial screening process. Screenings are short meetings with a Dyslexia Advisor that may include discussions about your learning and some learning exercises. Screening is designed to identify ‘soft signs’ of Specific Learning Differences. Speak to your University/College Dyslexia Service Adviser to discuss booking a screening.

Diagnostic Assessment

If you have a specific learning difference, you must provide evidence in the form of a post-16 years diagnostic assessment from a Specialist Dyslexia Teacher Assessor with a Practising Certificate, or a Chartered Psychologist with a Health Professional Council (HPC) Practising Certificate. You could get extra help to pay for a new diagnostic assessment through your University or college hardship funds. Contact the student services at your university or college to identify if you qualify.

diagnostic assessment process takes up to three hours. You will undertake a short interview and some exercises to identify the way you learn. The assessor will complete a report following the session which will highlight your learning strengths, as well as areas of difficulty and will suggest strategies and adjustments to support your learning.

Organising your diagnostic assessment

If you have undertaken a screening, and have been advised to book a diagnostic assessment, you should contact your University/ College’s Disability service as they may be able to support you with the arrangements. Otherwise, you can search for a specialist dyslexia assessor or chartered psychologist using the following links:

To ensure your funding body will accept the report prior to attending and paying for your assessment check that your assessor:

Evidence for a Disability

Including long-term health conditions, sensory impairments, mental health conditions or autistic spectrum conditions.

In order to apply for the DSA, you will need to provide medical evidence. The medical evidence should be from a suitably qualified medical professional, such as a GP, specialist consultant, Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) consultant, psychiatrist or psychologist.

If you are from England or Wales ask your medical consultant to complete the disability evidence form for England or Wales.

If you are not from England or Wales your evidence should be a typed letter on headed paper, signed and dated. The letter should have been written within the last 6-12 months. If possible the letter should state the impact that your disability or medical condition will have on your daily life, and possible impact upon your academic studies.

Completing your DSA Application

Now you need to send off your application. The forms are different dependent on your funding body and nationality, so check below for the relevant forms and information.

I am from England

I am receiving or applying for a Student Loan so this is the form I need to fill out (Note: This form can be completed digitally or by hand):

The slim DSA1 form

I am self-funded e.g. postgraduate or self-funding my course fees, so I need to fill out this form. (Note: Your disability or dyslexia advisor must complete a section of this form. This form can be completed digitally or by hand.) :

The full DSA1 form

You should post your completed form to:

Student Finance England
PO Box 210
Darlington
DL1 9HJ

You can find information on the DSA here:


 

I am from Scotland

I am receiving or applying for a Student Loan so this is the form I need to fill out (Note: Your disability or dyslexia advisor must complete a section of this form. This form can be completed digitally or by hand):

The slim DSA1 form

I am self-funded e.g. postgraduate or self-funding my course fees, so I need to fill out this form. (Note: Your disability or dyslexia advisor must complete a section of this form. This form can be completed digitally or by hand.) :

The full DSA1 form

You should post your completed form to:

Student Awards Agency for Scotland
Gyleview House
3 Redheughs Rigg
Edinburgh
EH12 9HH

You can find information on the DSA here:


 

I am from Wales

I am receiving or applying for a Student Loan so this is the form I need to fill out (Note: This form can be completed digitally or by hand):

The slim DSA1 form

I am self-funded e.g. postgraduate or self-funding my course fees, so I need to fill out this form. (Note: Your disability or dyslexia advisor must complete a section of this form. This form can be completed digitally or by hand.) :

The full DSA1 form

You should post your completed form to:

Student Finance Wales
PO Box 211
Llandudno Junction
LL30 9FU

You can find information on the DSA here:

 

 


 

I am from Northern Ireland

The quickest way to apply is via your student finance account. If you’ve had funding from student finance in the past you’ll be able to use the same sign-in details, if not you’ll need to create an account. If you cannot apply online, you can download a form below or speak to your local Student Finance NI (SFNI) office.

I am receiving or applying for a Student Loan so this is the form I need to fill out (Note: This form can be completed digitally or by hand):

The undergraduate DSA1 form

I am self-funded e.g. postgraduate or self-funding my course fees, so I need to fill out this form. (Note: Your disability or dyslexia advisor must complete a section of this form. This form can be completed digitally or by hand.) :

The full DSA1 form

You should send your completed form to your local Student Finance NI (SFNI) Office, which you can find using the locator tool.

You can find information on the DSA here:


 

I am from Ireland (Fund for students with disabilities)

You can find information here:

Help and Assistance

The staff of the Higher Education Authority is happy to assist college personnel with any queries on application to the Fund. Please contact:

Modesta Mawarire

Applications

You must register with your Disability and Dyslexia Service at your university who will support you to apply for the fund.

 


 

NHS Student Bursary

You can find information on the DSA here:

Apply for DSA through your Bursary Online Support System (BOSS) account. There should be a link to Disabled Students Allowances application on your BOSS homepage. NHS students who do not currently have a BOSS account will need to open one in order to prove that they are eligible for NHS funding before they can apply for DSA.

You can access information on creating a BOSS account and applying for DSA through the NHS bursaries website.

Research Council Grant

You can find information about the DSA on the funding for research training page of the UK Research and Innovation website.

Useful documents:

Students should contact the Disability Adviser or named contact on disability matters at their research organisation for advice. For more information on Disabled Students Allowance please contact the research council that has funded the studentship:

AHRC: pso@ahrc.ac.uk 
BBSRC: gfmt@bbsrc.ac.uk
EPSRC: DSAClaims@epsrc.ac.uk 
ESRC: tdbpolicy@esrc.ac.uk
MRC: RFPD@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk
NERC: researchcareers@nerc.ac.uk
STFC: studentships@stfc.ac.uk

Needs Assessment

DSA1 Approval Letter

Once your DSA1 form has been processed your DSA Funding Provider will send you a DSA1 approval letter to let you know if you qualify for DSA. It can be helpful to inform your University/College Disability or Dyslexia Adviser that you have received DSA approval. They can help you to book a Needs Assessment, support you if your DSA1 letter states that you do not qualify for DSA and you need to appeal, or advise you in providing further evidence.

Access Centre

Once you have received your DSA1 approval letter you can book your Needs Assessment. You can search for an assessment centre near you on the government website. Your University/College Disability or Dyslexia Adviser can support you with this process and sometimes have an assessment centre within the University Campus.

Needs Assessment

The Needs Assessment process gives you the chance to talk about the way you learn best, and the strategies you have used throughout your education. The Study Needs Assessor will ask you about the barriers you face with your learning and will suggest equipment, software and support that can help you meet your potential. Before you go, it is a good idea to take a look at some of the software the needs assessor might talk about with you. You can do this by looking at the Resources section of the D&A website. Here you can explore how to use different pieces of assistive software, and comments from the D&A community on how they use this software from a student perspective.

Following your Needs Assessment a report will be drafted. A copy will be sent to you by the Assessment Centre within 10 working days of the Needs Assessment. It is advisable to agree for a copy of the report to be sent to your University/College Disability or Dyslexia Adviser. Providing this consent to the Study Needs Assessor during your Assessment will enable the Adviser to support you in setting up the adjustments, support and strategies recommended in the report.

Funding is available to reimburse for the cost of travel to your Needs Assessment following submission of a claim form and receipts. See ‘General Allowance’ in the following support section for details of how to claim for reimbursement of the travel costs for your Needs Assessment.

Support

DSA2 Entitlement Letter

Your funding body will look at the evidence in the Study Needs Assessment report and the recommendations that have been made. They will send a DSA2 letter stating:

  • The funding that has been approved
  • The details of the suppliers to contact to order your equipment
  • The contact details of assistive technology training provider
  • The number of hours of training agreed
  • The contact details of non-medical helpers
  • The number of hours support agreed
  • Other disability-related costs of studying

It is important to contact the assistive technology and non-medical helper providers as soon as possible to ensure your support is put in place. Ensuring your University Disability or Dyslexia Adviser has a copy of the DSA2 letter will enable the Adviser to support you to set up your non-medical helper support.

Equipment & Software

 

If equipment or software has been agreed on your DSA2 Entitlement letter, your supplier will require you to forward a copy of the letter. Your DSA2 letter will provide a telephone number for the supplier. All suppliers will also have a website where you will find an order form to attach the letter to, or an email address to forward it to. Remember to provide details of your address, telephone number and email address when contacting the supplier so they can contact you to discuss your DSA equipment.

Assistive Technology Training

Your entitlement letter will also state the recommended assistive technology training company. This training is really important as you will learn strategies that can be integrated with the assistive technology you have been given, in order to help you become an independent learner. This should not be mistaken for basic IT training. Receiving great quality training that integrates the assistive technology learning strategies that are based around your learning style, can really be life-changing to the way that you learn!

Non-Medical Helpers

 

Your entitlement letter will also state the recommended non-medical helpers such as a note-taker, library assistant, specialist mentor or specialist study support tutor. The letter will state the recommended provider and the number of hours of support you are entitled to. If your university is the recommended provider your disability or dyslexia adviser will help you to arrange and set this up. If your university is not the provider use the contact details of the provider on your entitlement letter to arrange setting up your non-medical helper support.

General Allowance

Some students are awarded a general allowance through the DSA to pay for any costs you have had to pay in connection with your studies due to a reason relating to your disability, mental health condition or specific learning difficulty. For example:

  • Travel costs
  • Books in Braille
  • Additional costs of university or college accommodation

If you are from England or Wales and have been awarded a taxi allowance, it is possible for the taxi company to set up an account with the Student Loans Company to pay the taxi company directly – this will avoid you having to pay the cost out of your own money. To do so you can ask the taxi company to complete the taxi account request proforma for England or Wales.

If you have been awarded a general allowance you can use the following forms/guidance for reimbursement of any costs you have had to pay. For reimbursement you will need to send details to your funding body, please remember to include your receipts with your claim. You will find the relevant forms below, dependent on your nationality:

I am from England

Reimbursement form

You should post your claim, with receipts, to:

Student Finance England
PO Box 210
Darlington
DL1 9HJ

I am from Wales

Reimbursement form

You should post your claim, with receipts, to:

Student Finance Wales
PO Box 211
Llandudno Junction
LL30 9FU

I am from Northern Ireland

Reimbursement form

You should post your claim, with receipts, to your local Student Finance NI (SFNI) Office using the finder tool.

I am from Scotland

You need to send details of your claim on a covering letter, including your student number, to:

Student Awards Agency for Scotland
DSA Team
Saughton House
Broomhouse Drive
Edinburgh
EH11 3UT

Ongoing

Feedback

D&A believe the student’s voice is the most important aspect of this process. Your voice and your choice can be heard by completing feedback for the different organisations that you have come into contact with during your DSA journey. Providing feedback encourages DSA suppliers and providers to maintain quality assured standards for students who access the DSA. You can give feedback, both positive and negative via the following channels:

Feeding back directly to your support provider is important too, so they know whether their service met your needs:

  • Equipment supplier
  • Assistive technology training provider
  • Non-medical helper provider

Disability Rights UK (DRUK) offer useful advice about making complaints to external regulatory bodies. You can read the factsheet here.

D&A team picture

The D&A Community

D&A provides a variety of non-medical help including specialist mentoring, study skills support and assistive technology training. We believe that students should have access to ongoing support even if their DSA funded sessions have finished, so our active D&A community of mentors, tutors and trainers are always at the ready to help with any queries and resolve any issues. Visit our contact page to find out how to get in touch. Equally, you can find us on our social media pages, we’re on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Send us any questions you might have – get engaged and get involved! We’d love to hear from you.