Government postpones cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowance

Cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance, which would have affected tens of thousands of students with disabilities, have been postponed until after the next general election in May 2015.

The cuts, which were proposed in April by the then Universities Minister David Willetts, were labelled as “measures to modernise the Disabled Students’ Allowances”.

However, they swiftly came under attack by universities, student unions, and the National Union of Students, who described the minister as “arrogant and out of touch”. It also faced opposition from over 100 MPs in a parliamentary Early Day Motion.

anti-cuts protesters outside the Bishop Grosseteste Students' Union building

Protesters joining the NUS campaign against cuts to DSA outside Bishop Grosseteste University’s Students’ Union building (Photo: Gregor Smith)

In a statement released today, the new Universities Minister, Greg Clark, announced that “concern was conveyed that some universities may not be able to meet their obligations [to support disabled students] in full by the beginning of the 2015/16 academic year”.

The minister added: “Accordingly, we have agreed to give Higher Education Institutions until the beginning of the 2016/17 academic year to develop appropriate mechanisms to fully deliver their statutory duty to provide reasonable adjustments, in particular non-medical help, and to improve the processes by which disabled students can appeal against a Higher Education Institution’s decision.”

The NUS have treated today’s announcement as a victory, claiming that their #DegreesOfDiscrimination campaign forced “a highly significant turnaround”.

NUS Disabled Students Officer, Maddy Kirkman, said: “Through coming together to forcefully make the case that these reforms would not work, together with a really broad coalition of MPs from all parties, students have ensured that this was a key issue for Greg Clark to address on taking up his new role as Universities Minister.

“It is to his credit that he has listened to these concerns and agreed to pause on the reforms for this year, and will consult and reflect before moving forward.​

“The Disabled Students’ Allowance is an incredibly important means of support for so many, and we will of course continue to make this case, and ensure that where there is reform it is to make the system work better for disabled students.”

However, it’s not all good news for those in need of support. For the 2015/16 academic year, the allowance will become much tighter, with students who need specialised laptop equipment having to contribute £200 of their own money towards the costs.

Some of the responsibility to provide support will also move onto universities, as “additional items such as printers and consumables will not be automatically
provided, with alternative provision in the form of university provided services such
as printing services and books and journals in electronic format to be considered as
alternatives”.

Dyslexic student Adam Froud & Lincoln MP Karl McCartney in discussion

Dyslexic student Adam Froud explaining his tale of Disabled Students’ Allowance to MP for Lincoln Karl McCartney (Photo: Gregor Smith)

The news comes three months since anti-cuts campaigners in Lincoln met with local MP Karl McCartney to discuss their concerns with the proposed measures. The Conservative backbencher promised to talk to his superiors, affirming that “the people who really need that money need to access that money, and that’s something this government has said is going to continue”.

 

Read the ministerial statement in full here

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