A report has shown that 60% of students eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) had not heard of the bursary before.
Eligibility for the DSA is based on disability rather than household income and provides support for students with learning difficulties, mental health conditions, long term health conditions and physical disabilities.
However, according to the report by the Department for Education, many students who do qualify are missing out due to lack of awareness of the bursary and eligibility criteria.
“I had no idea that I was eligible in the first place…it wasn’t something that was widely broadcast to students,” said Annie Kate Knowles, a third-year Politics and Spanish student who was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year.
Speaking to The Mancunion, she also raised issues about the assessment process, adding that it was “very inconvenient when you can barely organise what you’re having for breakfast.”
Despite this she advised qualifying students to apply, telling them to “go for it …they [DSA assessors] are super accepting of everyone and every kind of disability.”
The DSA assessment uses a needs-based approach to determine what each student is eligible for. In some cases, a student may be given extra funding that acts like a “general allowance”. Others may be given a “non-medical helper” (for example a study skills tutor) that is paid for by the bursary. Some students may receive support in the form of specialist equipment or software to help them along with their studies.
Grace Bridgewater a former student at UoM explained that she wasn’t aware of the support available for her until she was hospitalised due to her mental health.
Once she became aware of the bursary she said that she remembers the process for getting DSA was easy. However, she told The Mancunion that she feels that universities could do more to increase awareness of invisible disabilities, suggesting that testimonials from fellow students on the university website could help more students with disabilities feel “valid”.
Both Grace and Annie praised UoM’s Disability Advisory and Support Service (DASS), with Annie saying they were “super helpful”.
The stigma of mental health and disability may also be affecting rates of application, with reports that some schools and colleges discourage university applicants from disclosing their disability to their prospective universities.
The report also suggested that only 13% of DSA beneficiaries were informed about it by their school or college.
If you think you might be eligible for the DSA, or need support with your disability at university, you can contact the SU Advice Service on [email protected], or get in touch with DASS by emailing [email protected]