Most students from the United Kingdom with a specific learning difficulty (e.g. dyslexia), a disability or a long-standing mental health issue will be eligible for the DSA. The best way to think of the DSA is as a non-means tested grant which pays for the additional support that a disabled student needs to get through their course – that said, it can only be used to pay for services, e.g. specialist study skills support or equipment.
The majority of students at Queen Mary University of London will have their DSA award administered by Student Finance England, but if they are from another part of the United Kingdom then their national equivalent body will deal with it, i.e. Student Finance Northern Ireland, Student Finance Wales or the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). For medical and dental students in the final years of their degree programmes their awards will be administered by the NHS Student Bursaries department.
A DSA Process Guide for SpLD Students [PDF 233KB] is available here, showing the DSA applicaiton process in the format of a flow chart, for students with Specific Learning Difficulties, such as dyslexia.
Rather than regurgitate the information that is already available through the government website linked to in the last paragraph, this webpage is designed to answer some of the frequently asked questions which students have in relation to their DSA award and also to explain the role of the Disability and Dyslexia Service versus that of your DSA needs assessor (and the assessment centre that they work for).
Recent changes to the DSA
Over the past two academic years the government has “rebalanced” various strands of support previously provided by the DSA – as of September 2015 students are required to pay the first £200 toward the cost of any computer awarded through the DSA and as of September 2016 DSA no longer pays for what were previously known as ‘Bands 1 and 2’ human support, e.g. note-taking support.
The role of the needs assessor and assessment centre
Our needs assessment page explains in great detail the processes involved with attending a needs assessment. Yours needs assessment is commissioned and paid for by your DSA funding body, e.g. Student Finance England. They pay the assessment centre who conduct the assessment of need a fee (usually between £600 and £700) to produce the report, along with the justification of the recommendations and costings, along with multiple quotes.
If you wish to change any aspect of the report, e.g. you want a different computer, or you want one form of human support and not another, this has to be communicated to the DSA funding body by the needs assessor as the author and owner of that report.
NB: the needs assessment fee covers not just the initial assessment and its report, but any additional queries relating to the student so long as they remain on the same course and at the same institution.
The role of the Disability and Dyslexia Service
As such, there is very little we can do to amend an assessor’s recommendations other than present your case to the needs assessor, the assessment centre manager or, ultimately, DSA-QAG (this is the quality assurance body that oversees the DSA on behalf of the tax payer). If we do not think there is a disability related justification for a requested needs assessment change then we won’t agree to do this.
Rather, our role is to implement those elements of your support that we have been awarded – usually, this will be specialist study skills support, (we do not have any other in-house human support and we do not provide any equipment).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: I’ve got my DSA2 letter. What do I do now?
Answer: Without wishing to sound trite, the best advice is to read the content of the DSA2 letter carefully – SFE in particular have worked very hard to make sure what is often a very arcane and complex process can be followed easily by reading the DSA2 award letter. The DSA2 will explain who to contact (and how) in order to secure delivery of your specialist equipment and to arrange your recommended human support.
Question: My assessor recommended a PC but I’d prefer a Mac. Can I use the money available through my DSA to buy an Apple system?
Answer: The needs assessor recommends technology of a specification adequate to support recommended software, but it is recognised that some students may wish to amend this. The various DSA funding bodies may be willing to agree to this, provided students are prepared to pay any additional cost and the efficacy of recommendations remains unaffected.
Question: I’d like to use some of my own money to upgrade my recommended computer. How do I do this?
Answer: The DSA-QAG approved computer suppliers are businesses and will be happy for you to pay more money for a higher spec system. However, we would recommend that you think about issues such as battery life and also when considering a change in printer you should think about the cartridge life and the type of printing which you will need before committing to either a LaserJet or Inkjet printer.
Question: What if I do not have insurance but have warranty cover?
Answer: Every computer retailer will provide at least twelve months of warranty on a new system and should your machine develop a fault the warranty will cover this. The DSA-QAG approved suppliers are required to provide longer warranties than usual to cover the duration of three or four year degree courses.
Insurance is not the same thing as a warranty – if your computer is, for example, stolen or damaged by a flooded bedroom or otherwise needs replacing then you will need to claim from the insurance company used by your supplier. If you do not have any insurance, you won’t be able to get a replacement machine through the DSA.
Question: My DSA has awarded me specialist study skills support – do I really need this and what is it?
Answer: You will have been allocated a set number of hours of study skills support EITHER per year OR in total for Specialist One-to-one Support. The concept of study skills is that it will ultimately allow you to study autonomously – think of it as a bit like having to take driving lessons before you are allowed to drive on your own. Among the ways that study skills can improve your academic performance are:
- Looking at how you tackle an assignment; e.g. if you are taking 20 hours completing an assignment, how can your time be made more efficient so that you use only 10 hours? You may consider yourself organised but how effective is your organisation? The study skills sessions can enhance your current abilities.
- Allowing you to develop strategies such as how to record text you have read for research purposes and how to proofread your work to avoid all grammar and spelling errors in less time.
- Utilising the tutors’ time - what can they do to help? This may include things like helping you implement the feedback from your assignments, tips on sourcing specific literature / ideas / resources to help you with your course.
Question: Can I use to money allocated for human support (e.g. study skills) for something else, such as an iPad or more books?
Answer: No. It’s an assessment of need – you either need a particular type of support or you don’t.
Question: How do I claim back the money awarded to me through my General Allowance?
Answer: Again, this is clearly explained in the DSA2 letter. The letter explains how much you have been awarded for each item, e.g. printing consumables and you will need to send the relevant form (which you can find on our downloads page) along with receipts for the expenses you have incurred.
Question: How do I access the Scotopic / Colorimetic test mentioned in my needs assessment?
Answer: All the information that you will need is in your DSA 2 letter. To book a colorimetric test (initial assessments cost about £42 and will not be reimbursed by SFE) with the Institute of Optometry (IOO) please contact the IOO. Their details are as follows:
56-62 Newington Causeway
London SE1 6DS
Tel: 020 7407 4183
Appointments: 020 7234 9641
Fax: 020 7403 8007
NB: You will have to pay for the initial assessment, (DSA will not reimburse you for this). Once completed, send the confirmation report from IOO to DSA via email.