Today Emma joined the National Union of Students and campaigners around the country to warn about the Government’s plans to cut funding for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA), a fund established to help students with disabilities, mental health conditions and specific learning difficulties (SpLD) access higher education.
In April the Government announced that from 2015/16 the level of DSA support would be reduced so that only those with ‘complex’ needs are funded, and organisations including the NUS have warned that this will prevent many disabled people from going to university. The NUS points out that in 2013 almost one in twelve students in higher education were disabled, and that these students already face increasing debt as a result of the Coalition’s tuition fees hike. More than half of disabled students report that they have seriously considered leaving their course – a figure 20% higher than for students without disabilities.
As a former student at both Northumbria and Durham Universities, and a person with dyspraxia, Emma recognises that students with disabilities and learning difficulties face extra obstacles in higher education. The Government’s definition of ‘complex’ needs is particularly likely to affect those with learning disabilities like dyslexia and dyspraxia.
Emma said: “I remember how much extra work I had to put in to succeed at university, and I am concerned that scaling back DSA will make things even harder for students.
“Students with disabilities are already more likely to fall into financial trouble, and many have to change their choice of university or even drop out entirely because of accessibility issues. We know that financial support helps disabled students achieve better degrees, so it is unequal and unfair for the Government to go ahead with cuts to the DSA budget.”
The Equality Challenge Unit reports that disabled students who receive DSA are more likely to receive a first class or upper second class honours degree than those who do not. The ECU also reported that disabled people are more likely to study part time and less likely to move on to postgraduate studies.