NUS is congratulating students across the country for their incredible campaigning work, following a ministerial announcement this morning that the proposed reforms to the disabled students’ allowance will now not be happening this year.
In a highly significant turnaround, the plans are now being put on hold for a full two years, in order to allow for appropriate time to listen to the concerns of students and students’ unions and ensure that any changes do not negatively impact on disabled students.
Since the proposed reforms were first announced in April 2014, NUS led a powerful student campaign, arguing that these reforms represented a tremendous risk to disabled students and their ability to study in higher education. Hundreds of MPs were directly lobbied on the issue, leading to a cross party Early Day Motion being signed by over 100 MPs from all parties, and a debate taking place in Westminster Hall where over 30 MPs set out their opposition to the reforms directly to the minister. MPs had argued that this reform risked becoming an important election issue.
NUS has commended Greg Clark, the Minister for Universities and Science for listening to the calls of students, and allowing time for full thought and reflection.
Despite government claims that cuts to DSA funding were being made to a majority of students who own their own computer, an NUS specifically commissioned survey – ‘Degrees of Discrimination’ - proved that almost half of disabled students acquire their laptops through funding they receive, compared to only eight per cent of non-disabled students.
In contrast, 43 per cent of non-disabled respondents acquired their device with their own money compared to 25 per cent of disabled students.
The planned cuts are also underpinned by the claim that DSA has become too expensive, but the average spend per student has actually gone down in real terms over the last eight years*.
Maddy Kirkman, NUS Disabled Students’ Officer said:
“Students up and down the country have been clear that the proposed reforms to the disabled students’ allowance represented a huge risk, and would have left many disabled students high and dry.
“Through coming together to forcefully make the case that these reforms would not work, together with a really broad coalition of MPs from all parties, students have ensured that this was a key issue for Greg Clark to address on taking up his new role as Universities Minister. It is to his credit that he has listened to these concerns and agreed to pause on the reforms for this year, and will consult and reflect before moving forward.?
“The Minister has heard the concerns articulated so powerfully by students and responded accordingly, and this is to be commended.
“The disabled students’ allowance is an incredibly important means of support for so many, and we will of course continue to make this case, and ensure that where there is reform it is to make the system work better for disabled students.
“We do still hold some concerns around the £200 contribution and we will want more detail on how BIS intends that this is paid/collected, and what help can be provided in cases of particular hardship. For example, postgraduates who qualify for the DSA but who don't get any other statutory support.”