Emma questions Universities Minister on cuts to support for disabled students

June 27, 2014

130904 - Emma Lewell Buck smallOn Thursday (26 June) Emma raised the Government’s planned cuts to the Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) with the Universities Minister David Willetts.

DSA is used to provide additional support to students with disabilities or learning difficulties, but the National Union of Students has warned that under the Government’s reforms many students with learning difficulties would lose out.

Disabled students already experience greater financial difficulties than others. In a recent survey, 59% said they worried about not having enough money to meet basic living costs, compared with 47% of other students.  55% reported that they had ‘seriously considered’ leaving their course.

Emma asked the Minister:

“As a dyspraxic, I remember how much extra effort I needed to put in to succeed at university. Students with disabilities and learning difficulties will be concerned about the Government’s reforms to the disabled students allowance, under which many of them will lose out. The evidence shows that students with learning difficulties are already less likely to complete their course and less likely to achieve the highest grades. Why does the Minister want to widen that gap even further?

Mr Willetts replied that the Government was “committed to helping disabled students” and that it would “expect universities to do more to discharge their direct responsibilities to disabled students.”

But campaigners have warned that expecting universities to take on more responsibility without providing them with the necessary funding could actually make it more difficult for disabled students to access support.  Faced by the additional pressures on their budgets, it was warned that universities could be forced to cut services elsewhere, or otherwise be discouraged from recruiting disabled students in the first place.

Emma has previously declared her support for the NUS’ campaign calling on the Government to rethink the cuts.

Speaking after business questions, Emma said:

“Disabled students are already being hardest hit by the Coalition’s decision to treble tuition fees, and cutting DSA will make it even harder for them to access higher education.

“The Minister seems to think that universities will steps in to provide disabled students with extra support, but in reality their ability to do so is limited and many disabled students will lose out as a result.”

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