DSA CUTS AT UNIVERSITY FOR THE CREATIVE ARTS – STUDENTS’ UNION STATEMENT
With the recent cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) the University for the Creative Arts has decided not become a Non-Medical Help (NMH) supplier.
The University for the Creative Arts Students’ Union felt we needed to release a statement on this decision.
We are keen to stress that any changes will not affect current students.
UCASU will endeavour to support all students to stop anyone being disproportionately affected by any changes to funding or staffing.
UCASU understands that it is government cuts which have caused this situation, and will be working to make sure the university is doing all it can through our access to University committees.
UCASU will be supporting the university to make sure that the student voice is heard throughout.
UCASU is disappointed that this decision has had to be made, and that no student consultation happened prior to action being taken.
UCASU will be working with NUS to coordinate a national response to government cuts to fight back on the affects this will have.
UCASU Campus Officers 2015-16
We welcome any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
THE FOLLOWING IS A RESPONSE FROM UCA:
Disabled Student Allowances (DSA) are provided by the government to students on an individual basis to help overcome the barriers that a disabled student may face, because of their disability, when accessing higher education. Until now DSA funding has provided a variety of different kinds of support assistance ranging from practical assistance and note-taking through to specialist mentoring and one-to-one study skills support.
The government is now making cuts to the funding provided through Disabled Student Allowances, making significant changes to the way in which it provides financial assistance through DSAs. In addition to the funding cuts, government has also made considerable changes to the way support staff can be provided to students by institutions. UCA worked alongside other Universities and professional groups to provide considerable feedback to government on their proposed changes. We lobbied hard to maintain the levels of funding available to individual students and the process by which we were allowed to provide support through the provision of our own staff. However, the changes have now been implemented by Government and UCA is currently preparing for this.
Firstly, the government has decided that it will no longer provide specific financial assistance for individual students who require support roles categorised as learning support assistance – i.e. roles providing practical and mobility support, general orientation, helping individual students with time keeping and organisational skills. These roles would also include manual note taking.
Secondly, it has changed the way that Disabled Student Allowances are assessed and allocated. Previously, UCA held an institutional exemption meaning that it could supply support staff to students without needing to compete in an external market. External ‘needs assessors’ would recommend how much dedicated support individual students should receive in relation to their disability and UCA would supply this using its own learning support staff recruited for this purpose and funded by the government through individual student DSAs. The government has now removed all institutional exemptions, requiring external needs assessors to provide two separate, competitive quotes for the provision of this support. Student Finance England (the funding body that awards allowances) are required to make a decision on these quotes. Given that the government has stated that it wants to protect the public purse, it is likely that the lowest cost provider will usually gain the contract to undertake this work for all new students entering higher education in 2016/17.
The government also now requires all suppliers of support staff to sign up to a national register governed by a new qualifications and quality assurance framework. UCA has recently decided that it will not sign up to this register as it feels unable to offer the commercially competitive quotes that other private providers of service can currently deliver. This means we would have no way of ensuring that any new work allocated through Disabled Student Allowances would be undertaken by staff the university currently works with. The University’s Leadership Team has taken the decision that the University needs to focus its attention and resources on developing inclusive practices and mainstreaming reasonable adjustments in our learning and teaching environment.
The University remains committed, however, to addressing the challenges brought about by these changes and is working on a series of initiatives that will deliver enhancements and support for accessible learning. These include how we deliver learning materials and information, provide group-based support for learning, and draw upon and use ‘assistive’ technologies to support our students. Naturally, these changes will take some time to implement and the University is expecting that it will still need to deliver on-course support and resource to new students entering in 2016/17, and has committed money to doing so.
Although we are still in the process of working out some of the detail of how we will address these changes on a day-to-day basis when they come into effect next academic year, there are some key points of reassurance that we wish to make at this time:
- UCA is not cutting its funding for student support. In fact, next year it will be spending more than it does this year.
- These changes do not affect current undergraduate students in receipt of a Disabled Students’ Allowance. Their DSA allocation will continue to be paid for by the government under existing arrangements.
- New students joining UCA in 2016 will still have access to certain types of DSA supported assistance, where recommended through independent needs assessment.
- All students will have appropriate access to university services and resources to support their learning, including learning development, assistive technologies and student support services.
Professor Trevor Keeble
Executive Dean (Learning, Teaching & Research)