Thursday, 7 April 2016

Grants and funding for disabled students

Higher education opens up many opportunities, but also brings with it added financial worries; this
can especially be the case if you have a disability. We explain the help available to relieve the strain of being a student.

While all students are entitled to a tuition fee loan, a means tested maintenance loan to cover living costs, and sometimes a maintenance grant, additional grants are available for disabled students.
Here we review the extra funding available to UK students with a disability.

Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
Whichever part of the UK you are from, and whether you’re studying in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, if you have a disability that will impact your higher education studies, you can apply for Disabled Students' Allowances.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a physical problem, a learning difficulty, mental health problems, or a long-term medical condition, or if you’ll be in undergraduate or postgraduate study. You can apply for these allowances to help with:

  • small purchases such as extra photocopying, braille paper or a dictaphone
  • larger specialist equipment you may needfor your studies as a result of your disability – for example, voice recognition software, a computer, printer and scanner. Although equipment that is needed by all students on a course would not be covered
  • non-medical personal help such as the services of a reader, note-taker, sign language interpreter, proof-reader or mentor. This doesn't cover extra tuition specific to the subject area, personal care or any other help unrelated to your studies
  • the additional costs of travel which a disability brings, such as being unable to use public transport

The level of help you receive from Disabled Students' Allowances is determined by your disability and whether your course is full-time or part-time. Your household income does not affect the payment.

Allowances for both the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 academic years

Full-time students:

  • specialist equipment allowance: up to £5,212 for the whole course
  • non-medical helper allowance: up to £20,725 a year
  • general allowance: up to £1,741 a year

Part-time students:

  • specialist equipment allowance: up to £5,212 for the whole course
  • non-medical helper allowance: up to £15,453 a year
  • general allowance: up to £1,305 a year

You do not need to repay any DSAs you receive and can claim it in addition to other forms of student finance. However, you can't get if it you receive an NHS Disabled Students' Allowance or similar funding from the university you attend.

Payment is either made into your account or straight to the organisation providing the products or services you need. You don’t have to repay any of the costs incurred.

You need to complete a form available from Student Finance England, Wales or Northern Ireland or from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland. If you qualify you will have to undergo a needs assessment to determine the level of funding you’ll receive.

NHS Disabled Students' Allowance

If you are a disabled student taking a course funded by NHS England or Wales, the Scottish Government Health Directorate, or you are receiving a bursary from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland, you can get financial assistance if your disability means you incur additional costs to attend the training.

It covers similar costs to the Disabled Students' Allowances, and a recent assessment of your needs is required as proof of eligibility.

If you are a postgraduate social work students getting a bursary from NHS England or the Care Council for Wales, if you have a disability an additional payment is included within your bursary.

Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment

Besides financial assistance with your studies, you may be able to claim additional funding towards day-to-day living while you’re a student.

If you need help to care for yourself or to get around, you may already be receiving Disability Living Allowance, which is being phased out and replaced with a similar benefit known as a Personal Independence Payment (PIP). If you are applying for assistance for the first time, you will be considered for the latter.

Being in higher education will not adversely affect your eligibility to claim PIP, as the payment is based on need rather than your family or partner's income. It is also unaffected by any other student funding you may receive.

The level of payment you receive will be dependent on the extent to which your disability impacts the care you require and your ability to mobilise.

A claim form is available from the Department of Work and Pensions. After completing and returning this, you will need to complete an assessment.

Employment and Support Allowance

If you are unable to work as a result of your disability while a student, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you are studying part-time.

Full-time students usually cannot claim this unless you satisfy one of the following criteria:

  • you have already made adequate national insurance contributions to obtain contributory ESA
  • you meet criteria for contributory ESA in youth and are aged over 19
  • you receive Disability Living Allowance at any rate of payment

In either case you will be required to complete an assessment to demonstrate your disability would prevent you from working.

Housing benefit

Whether on a part-time or full- time course, you can claim housing benefit if you are a student with a disability. You will qualify for this in the following instances:

  • you receive Disability Students' Allowances for deafness.
  • you are classed as having a disability premium (you receive Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment) or a severe disability premium (on top of receiving the care component of either DLA or PIP, you live alone and nobody receives a carer’s allowance for providing care to you).

Help towards travel costs

If your mobility is affected, or you are unable to travel alone, this will often mean the journey to and from university on a daily basis leads to extra costs.

Your disability may mean you are entitled to a concessionary bus pass which entitles you to free bus travel, or a Disabled Persons Railcard that allows you and a companion to receive a third off most rail fares.

Alternatively, you may be able to take advantage of the Motability scheme that enables those with a disability to lease a car. Once you have a car you will also be able to apply for vehicle tax exemption and a blue badge to allow you to park in more accessible areas.

Researching the financial assistance available to you as a disabled student and accessing all the funding to which you are entitled will allow you to be in a more comfortable financial situation while you pursue your studies.


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