LUSU has declared its support for the NUS’ campaign to prevent the government cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). Changes to the DSA in England were announced by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on April 7th, with the projected cuts having the potential to take away many of the facilities disabled students are currently entitled to. The changes could affect around 450 students at Lancaster University.
On Friday Week 7 the NUS coordinated a national constituency-based lobby of MPs, in order to say “no to cuts to the DSA.” Cuts to the DSA will include the restriction of those eligible to receive laptops and computers, with all non-medical support like note-taking no longer covered under the DSA. The cuts at the national level will put the onus to provide such help onto individual institutions and universities.
While LUSU are pessimistic about the prospects of persuading Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw to challenge the cuts, it is a campaign which they are in support of. VP (Welfare and Community) Tom Fox told SCAN: “One of the proposed outcomes is that there would be a large amount of the funding for equipment that students with dyspraxia, dyslexia, use would be lost. If you don’t need a computer, for example, but a computer really aids you, you will have to fund that yourself.
“In Lancaster around 450 students would lose that funding. I know students who can’t afford a laptop – they rely on that.”
Fox also pointed to accommodation costs for disabled students. “We’re quite good here [in Lancaster] in that we have quite a lot of disabled accommodation and we’ve been given money to get more,” Fox told SCAN. “However, cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance would mean students would have to pay more for that, whereas at the moment there are grants which would even that out.
“We already see that disabled students do spend more at university anyway; they are some of the least satisfied people at university. If we keep cutting the grants that make them stay here, it’s going to be more and more unlikely that they are going to want to come to university, and would prevent disabled students from accessing higher education.”
Fox said that he believes this is one of the governments’ cuts which all students should be challenging. “It would be really disappointing if this goes through and we should speak out about it. Everyone will know someone who has got a disability, and they will be affected by that,” he said.
The DSA is considered a vital support for many disabled students, with research suggesting that students receiving the DSA are more likely to reach a first or upper class second honours degree than disabled students who do not receive an allowance.
The NUS described the government’s cut to the DSA as “gutting a support allowance vital to many students.”
“While well-resourced institutions with fewer disabled students may be able to provide additional support, less well-resourced universities and colleges with higher numbers of disabled students will struggle to provide the necessary support,” the NUS said. “It is incredibly important that we outline how dangerous and damaging these cuts can be. At a time when the government has already made savage cuts to disabled people’s benefits and cuts to local government funding, we cannot let this continue.
“With research showing 59 per cent of disabled respondents worried about not having enough money to meet basic living expenses, we need to stand up and say no to any further swinging cuts.”