The DSA Process

A quick guide to show how the Disabled Students Allowances funding works:

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Apply for DSA

The first step is to apply for funding through your funding body (Student Finance England, Wales or NI, or the Student Awards Agency Scotland. You can usually do this as part of your main student finance application, and it can be done before starting a course or at any time during the course. You will need to send evidence of your disability, learning difficulty, mental health condition or long-term health condition to your funding body. Students with specific learning difficulties need to send a copy of a diagnostic assessment report completed by a psychologist or suitably qualified specialist teacher to their funding body. Students with physical or mental health conditions need a report or letter from their doctor or other medical professional.

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Get asked to arrange a DSA study needs assessment

Once your application has been approved by your funding body, they will contact you to let you know that you are eligible for the DSA funding and ask you to arrange a DSA study needs assessment. Most funding bodies give details of a website to find the nearest place that you can attend a study needs assessment, though you can attend any centre that you want. When booking your assessment, you'll need the letter that the funding body sends you (usually attached to an email and referred to as a DSA1 letter) and the evidence that you used to apply for the funding.

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Attend your study needs assessment

Assessments are now being carried out remotely, though students who require an in-person assessment can request this with us.. The assessment takes between 1 to 2 hours and although it’s called a needs assessment, you are not going to be assessed in any way – there are no tests to complete and the difficulties that you may experience are not going to be checked or assessed. Instead you get to assess the different types of support available through the Disabled Students Allowances funding to work out what will be most effective in supporting your difficulties. The session is guided by a needs assessor, who will help ensure that you have thought of all the possible areas that you may have difficulties, and will then go through the different support options with you. This is likely to include demonstrating some software (have a look at our Learning Tech section for examples) and potentially looking at different types of equipment so that you can see whether the support will be useful to you.

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The Needs Assessment report

After your needs assessment, the assessor will write a report to recommend all the things that were discussed in the needs assessment which you thought would be useful. This report is sent to your funding body who then decide if the DSA funding can be used to pay for those recommendations. Usually, all recommendations are approved, but funding bodies can query any recommendations they feel are not fully justified or do not meet the funding guidelines. When this happens, the funding body will inform your assessor, who may then provide additional justification or evidence in order to try and get the recommendation agreed, or accept that it will not be funded. Once an agreement between the assessor and funding body has been reached, or (more usually) if all recommendations were agreed without any queries, the funding body will send you written confirmation (usually called a DSA2 letter) that the funding has been approved and give you details about how to order equipment and arrange the other support.

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Get your support in place

Once the funding has been approved, you are responsible for ordering the equipment and arranging any other support. Your funding body should tell you who to contact to do this - there are specialist companies that provide support that is funded by the DSA - but if you are not sure, just let us know and we'll happily help. There are usually different companies to contact for different types of support, but all the software and equipment is usually ordered from one place. You may have to pay some money if you are getting a computer, but otherwise the cost of everything else is funded by the DSA.