Huppert takes students’ fears on DSA changes to government

MP Julian Huppert is taking the fears of Cambridge’s disabled students to Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday, July 1) as the government plans to ‘modernise’ the Disabled Students’ Allowance.

Julian will lead a Westminster debate on changes to DSA which students fear will have a devastating effect on their university education.

DSA provides disabled students with specialist equipment such as computer software, note-takers or readers and extra travel costs incurred because of their disability, among other financial help. There are 1,800 students at Cambridge’s Anglia Ruskin University alone who are eligible for DSA.
The government’s plans include restricting the issues covered by DSA to more “complex” Specific Learning Difficulties and those requiring “most specialist” support.

Julian said: “DSA is a lifeline for the huge numbers of students studying with disabilities. It helps them reach their potential and it works.

“Figures from the Equality Challenge Unit show that disabled students who receive DSA are more likely to achieve a first or upper second class degree than disabled students who don’t receive this allowance.

“Universities Minister David Willetts said in a speech to the Higher Education Funding Council for England that ‘it would be a tragedy if anybody were put off from applying for university because of costs’ but these proposals – this modernisation – will do just that. These plans would pull the rug out from under students and expect universities to fill the hole.

“I would urge the Minister not to redefine disability in higher education. Issues such as autism, dyslexia and mental health problems can have a huge impact on a student’s ability to succeed particularly when it comes to education. It seems perverse that these are the types of problems that will be hit hardest by the ‘modernisation’.

“I’ve spoken to many students, especially at Anglia Ruskin University, who have described just how much they would have struggled without the support this provides”.
He added that a recent survey revealed that over a third of students would not have attended university without DSA and 36.6 per cent would be more likely to drop out if the cuts happened while they were still at university.

Julian’s stand on the issue has won support from students in Cambridge and nationally.

Ben Cronin, Welfare Campaigns Representative at Anglia Ruskin University said: “Julian’s support on this issue has been invaluable in raising its profile and not allowing another cut to slip through unchecked.

“Julian organising this debate has meant that there will be a platform in Westminster to discuss the proposed cuts and give a voice to those who these changes will truly effect, should they come into place.”

Helen Hoogewerf-Mccomb, Cambridge University Students Union President-elect, said:

“The DSA is a source of vital support for disabled students in Higher Education; removing it could have disastrous consequences for many students.

“We are pleased to see this debate happening and look forward to saving the DSA.”

Maddy Kirkman, National Union of Students’ Disabled Students’ Officer-elect said: “The proposed cuts to the Disabled Students’ Allowance would have a devastating impact, and we’re really pleased to be working with Julian Huppert to stand against this outrageous proposal and to tell the government that they urgently need to go back to the drawing board.

“The supposed reforms are really just a cost-saving exercise, which would bring about a postcode lottery in support and see thousands of disabled students lose out. Government need to listen to the concerns of students in Cambridge and up and down the country, and scrap these wholly misguided proposals.”