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The Association for Ethical Practice
Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA)


Why AfEP-DSA and How Does it Work?

The Association for Ethical Practice (DSA) aims to ensure that students can get the best out of DSA funded products, services and advice by offering:

  • Key Information - so that you know what needs to happen: what you need to do and what others are expected to do so that you can access the support you need;
  • Student Feedback
    • BLOG It! - Students. Tell practitioners, other students and others about your experience of DSA funded support!
    • RATE It! Online Student Survey - Students give your Star-Rating to DSA funded equipment and services;
    • DISCUSS It! If you don't know who to ask for advice, someone at AfEP Forum may be able to assist. 

What is a Disability?

The legal definition: A person is deemed to be disabled if they have any physical or mental health condition which has a significant, adverse impact on their ability to do everyday tasks. These can be sensory impairments, chronic physical and mental health conditions (e.g. epilepsy, diabetes, asthma, depression, anxiety, etc.) and specific learning differences (e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia).

Disclosure: Do I have to tell my HEI about my Disability?

Students have the right to choose whether or not to inform their Higher Education Institution (HEI) - ie University/College - about their disability. The first opportunity for disclosure is on the UCAS form. 

Under the Equality Act 2010 HEIs make reasonable adjustments for disability related needs. Disability Teams also offer advice and support services, including

  • information in advance of study to help you plan ahead; 
  • screening and referral for diagnostic assessments for Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD) eg, dyslexia;
  • special examination arrangements in response to your needs;

If you do not need in-house adjustments and do not wish to disclose, you can seek further advice from your funding body, your assessment centre or post a message to AfEP.

What is DSA?

Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) provide funding for the additional costs of undertaking study in higher education as a consequence of a disability

  • The DSA is a grant and NOT a loan; 
  • The Disabled Students Allownces come from central government.
  • The allowances for undergraduate students are organised under 4 main headngs: 
    • Equipment Allowance - £5,161 for whole course;
    • Non-Medical Helper Allowance - £20,520 a year;
    • General Allowance - £1,724 a year;
    • Travel - no upper limit;
  • The allowances for postgraduate students a single allowances of up to £10,260.

Who is Eligible?

To prove eligibility for DSA funded support, students either in or about to enter higher education must present documentary evidence of a disability. This would be Doctor’s letter for a medical condition or sensory impairment or a diagnostic report for Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLD). Click Here for information who can provide suitable diagnostic reports for SpLD

How do I Apply?

Students can access DSA funded support by indicating a disability when applying to their funding body eg:

The proecudures and links for most of this website are those for the Student Loans Company. If the SLC is NOT your funding provider, please use this site for a general understanding of how the funding is administered but clarify the specific details wtih your specific funding provider. 

DSA Application Form

What Happens Then?

After you submit your application form and relevant documentary evidence, the funding body will consider your application and write to you to either to ask for further information or to confirm eligibility for funding.

Where eligibility is confirmed, you will then be asked to attend an Assessment of Needs to discuss how your condition affects your ability to study. The Needs Assessment will establish precisely what support you will need. 

This means making an appointment at a DSA-QAG approved Assessment Centre of your choice 

What is a Needs Assessment?

Students are sometimes concerned about what the Needs Assessment involves. It ought to be an informative and empowering experience that begins a journey of discovery about easier ways to study.

There are no tests. It is an opportunity for students to discuss the impact of their condition on study with a Needs Assessor, who will recommend strategies for reducing or bypassing issues. Strategies can be based around the use of assistive technology, or Human (non-Medical) support or other accessories, including: 

Equipment -eg: Computer and printer, ergonomic items;

Assistive Technology: eg, screen reading software, voice recognition software, digital recorder for recording lectures

Non-Medical Helper Services -eg: 

  • Assistive Technology Training: To enable you to use the assistive technology recommended for effective study, including to customising equipment and software and ensuring that it is working to your satisfaction;
  • Specialist 1:1 Support: eg, Specialist Learning Support tutor, (dyslexia, dyscalculia) Mentor (Autism, Mental Health); Sign Language Interpreter;
  • Education Support Workers: eg, Notetaker, Library Assistant.

General Items-eg: 

  • Internet access;
  • Coloured overlays (spld);
  • Ink cartridges;
  • Additional books;

In-house adjustments at University -eg:

  • Extra time for examinations;
  • Ergonomic seating in class;
  • Rest breaks;
  • Extended library loans.

Travel: The DSA travel allowance can fund the additional costs of travel due to disability. These are the costs that would over and above the cost of public transport.

What is an Assessment Centre?

Assessment Centres (Access Centres) are licenced by DSA-QAG to carry out study needs assessments for disabled students in higher education. The needs assessment supports a bid for public funding under the DSA.

DSA QAG registered Assessment Centres are responsible for bringing together specialist knowledge and experience of working with:

  • The effects of disability on study;
  • Ways to bypass obstacles brought about by a disabling condition. ie, strategies using equipment, accessories, reasonable adjustments within the university environment, as well as relevant individual human support;

The Assessment Centre will also have specialist equipment and accessories available for demonstration, so that the student can have a clear idea of how they can be used as study aids.

Following the needs assessment, a report is produced (Needs Assessment Report –NAR) setting out recommendations for the support needed to address impact of the disability on study. There may be recommendations for reasonable adjustments at the HEI, which normallly require further discussion between the student and the Disability Support Team. 

The Needs Assessment Report (NAR) is then sent to:

  • the funding body;
  • the Student;
  • the HEI Disability SupportTeam, with the student's consent.

Funding confirmation (DSA2 Letter)

The funding body will then consider the recommendations and what they are able to agree to fund, which establishes the budget for support, item by item. 

A letter of confirmation (DSA2) will be sent to

  • the student
  • the Assessment Centre
  • the HEI Disability SupportTeam, subject to student consent. 

Students should keep a copy of this letter, as providers of goods and services will need a copy to confirm that DSA funding has been authorised.

What do I have to do for support to be arranged? 

This part of the process can cause some confusion. Some Assessment Centres and Disability Support Teams currently offer assistance students with this process.

We have put together some details of what to expect below. However, if you need further assistance, contact your Assessment Centre/Needs Assessor/DisabilityTeam, or post a question to the AfEP Forum

Once funding is confirmed, you need to contact each of the support providers (equipment and/or support services) to make specific arrangements. The contact details will be listed on the DSA2 letter and/or on the back pages of your needs assessment report. Depending on the recommendations, here are some examples of providers that you may need to liaise with: 

  • Equipment Supplier:-
    • Normally, you will contact the equipment provider on the DSA2 letter and tell them that you have funding to purchase equipment.
    • They will ask you for copy of the DSA2 letter and take you through the steps for placing the order;
    • They will arrange a delivery date/time with you, along with a set-up session and familiarisation session to explain warranties and insurance cover.
    • If you wish to purchase from an alternative supplier, then please seek advice from your funding body and needs assessor. 
  • Assistive Technology Training Provider:
    • Contact the support provider to arrange a suitable appointment;
    • They will need to see a copy of the DSA2 letter to confirm the agreed funding. 
  • Specialist 1:1 Suppport Provider: (eg, for SpLD/Mentoring)
    • This can be offered through the HEI Disability Team or an independent provider.
    • They will need to see a copy of the DSA2 letter to confirm the agreed funding. 
  • In-House Non-Medical Helper Services: (eg, Notetaker, Library Assistant).
    • These are normally organised by the HEI Disability Team.
    • The HEI will have a copy of the DSA2 letter, subject to your consent. 

Some tips for organising delivery of goods and services

  • Give yourself plenty of time when arranging deliveries or appointments:
    • If you can, use a diary;
    • If you need help, ask someone.
  • When arranging deliveries or services on-site, remember to inform providers of:
    • parking or other restrictions; 
    • a number where you are easily contactable (preparing for the unexpected);
    • if you live above the ground floor;
    • any other details that they may need to know in order make the delivery run smoothly;
  • Patience and courtesy are priceless assets.

What if things don't go as planned?


  • Things rarely go exactly as planned, even when they go well;
  • Some 'struggle' is proper to real learning. It often comes with the building of new knowledge; 
  • Disability Support provision aims to address struggle that doesn't need to be there; to offer access to easier ways to study;
  • Many obstacles are related to attitudes and fears as much as to any technical or logistical obstacles; 
  • Attitudes and fears are about people, be they Students, Support Practitioners or Educators;
  • Acheivement is built through persevering, through working with problems and overcoming setbacks;
  • With patience and conscientious attention detail, we can usually find workable pathways;


  • Talk about obstacles or challenges with those who are willing to listen (tutors, support providers, friends);
    • They may be able to offer direction, or may know someone else who can;
    • You may discover that what you are encountering is a common problem, and not something that you are required to solve alone, if at all;
    • Talking through an issue is key to learning, as it clarifies our perspective and we often discover the next step in doing so;
  • Posting a message to the AfEP Forum or Blog may assist you with further ideas.

How is payment made?

Participating providers of goods and services normally invoice the funding body directly. Here are some details:

Equipment Allowance:


DSA QAG registered equipment suppliers invoice the funding body directly. 

If a student wishes to purchase equipment from a suitable alternative provider, this is possible. Students are advised to inform their funding body BEFORE making a purchase to clarify the process of paying for items and later reimbursement (SLC), as well as any relevant conditions. 

  • To ensure reimbursement, the functionality recommended in the needs assessment must be maintained;
  • If more expensive equipment is required, students can opt to pay the difference themselves.

General Allowance:

Purchases made under the General Allowance often require that students claim reimbursement (SLC) after making purchases.

Equipment Insurance

  • Participating equipment supplier quotations include warranties and insurance for the duration of the programme of study;
  • NB: This insurance covers THEFT and ACCIDENTAL DAMAGE, but NOT LOSS;
  • Students should seek additional 'All Risks' cover for loss of mobile items (such as laptop, digital recorder) for the duration of the programme of study.

Sundry Items 

This can include items such as books, photocopying and ink cartridges, subject to needs assessment recommendation.  

If you are uncertain about what to do, contact your Assessment Centre/Needs Assessor or University Disability Team for further advice, or post a question to the Forum.

Non Medical Helper Allowance:

Assessment Centres are a participating provider and so authorised needs assessments are invoiced directly to the funding body. 

Assistive Technology Training/Tutorials

This is normally invoiced to the funding body directly. If you wish to work with a suitable provider not listed in your needs assessment report, please inform your funding body so that payments for these services can be made on your behalf. 

Specialist One to One Support eg for SpLD, (Dyslexia, Dyspraxia) or Mentoring support

Where this is organised by your HEI Disability Team, services are invoiced to the funding body directly. 

If you wish to work with a suitable provider not listed in your needs assessment report, please inform your funding body in order to authorise them to make payments for these services on your behalf. 

Education Suppport Providers (eg, Notetaker)

This is normally organised by your HEI Disability Team, with services invoiced to the funding body directly.

If you wish to make alternative arrangements, you will need to discuss this with your Disabilty Team and inform your funding body. 

Travel Allowance:

This can mean a finding a local taxi company who is willing to invoice for your funding body for their services. Time and effort will normally be needed in order to set-up an account. Your Assessment Centre or HEI Disability Support Service should be able to advise you about this. Otherwise, you can pay the taxi service and be reimbursed for the costs subject to values agreed in advance.