DSA - delivering on the promise of bespoke support
Disabled Students Allowances Delivering on the Promise of Bespoke Support Penny Georgiou Access 1st
Principles, Axioms, Scene Setting “To save myself, I have to save Springfield.” Homer Simpson’s Epiphany “All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Everfailed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Samuel Beckett (Worstward Ho, 1983) The Ethical is Practical
Key Questions1. What obstacles do students face in accessing DSA funded support?2. How can these obstacles be removed?
DSA• Disabled Students Allowances (DSA) underpins the provision of bespoke support for disabled students in Higher Education. This is the promise.• An intelligent concept - both ethical and pragmatic – facilitating support for many students, now in its second decade.• Funding is attached to the individual student, rather than located in a generic pool of institutional budgets. Thus it – Defends against the tendency to erode the autonomy of those receiving support services by those who offer them. – Aims to offer students scope for empowering choices about their education: access to support that can remove unnecessary obstacles to study.
Students• Our experience of best practice tells us of the tremendous potential for transformation here.• Feedback from students and practitioners about their experience on the ground, all too often, tells us that the process can stall in any one of several places.
PractitionersIssues allowed to become intractable simply plume attrition, overworking students and practitioners alike: Disability Advisers, SFEAwards Team, Equipment Suppliers, SpecialistLearning Support Tutors, Assistive Technology Trainers, Assessors, and many others.
Working Community• We are charged to provide accessible pathways to goods and services of consistent and suitable quality for addressing the study needs of disabled students.• Where this charge is prioritised, it points the way to realisation of potential that the DSA offers both to disabled students and the country that invests in them.• In order to prevail, this requires acknowledgement of issues, open discussion and collegiate working practices among DSA funded practitioners across the sector.
Common problemsReported by students:• Confusion about what to do next after funding is agreed.• Lack of post-report support from Access Centres• Issues with equipment/set-up• Issues with accessing suitable NMH provision – Specialist Learning Support (availability) – Assistive Technology Training (quality and availability)• Anything else
What do we do about them?Issues are not difficult to address, if we canmake some reasonable adjustments to the waythat we operate.
Culture The Ethical is PracticalRenew and extend the culture of constructiveand collegiate working relationships existing inthe wider sector of disability support. Thatis, not let the delusion of monetary gain forsome ruin the scope of profit for all. (HomerSimpson’s Epiphany)
The DSA Sector• Sector awareness raising (and training) of the current barriers faced by disabled students seeking access to effective support services.• Redefine the remit and responsibilities of key practitioners to respond to the work needed to be done on the ground.• Like for like principle to be rigorously applied to services as well as to equipment.• Easy access to suitable alternative NMH providers where, for whatever reason, the student is unable to access the provision recommended;• Audit criteria with consequences, including loss of practitioner status: asking the right questions, in the right place, of the right people.• Mechanisms to enable students to be better informed about what they can expect from specialist services that claim to build skills.
Access Centres and AssessorsNeeds assessment does not end with the submission of the needs assessment report.Expert consultants in Strategy Based Needs Assessment, practice needs to include• Accessible referral pathways for NMH services (quality and availability)• Support in the post-report phase, assistance with accessing goods and services, where necessary, including – Put student in touch with providers directly – Post report follow up, – Assistance with finding suitable alternative support providers, where necessary.• Student-centred response to requests for further assistance from students and other disability practitioners, within a reasonable time frame;• Attention and professional response to feedback from students and others to build a sound working knowledge with which to evaluate goods and services recommended in terms of: • Suitable quality – is it fit for purpose? • Availability – if not, then what is the alternative provision? • Like for like –what’s the difference? What constitutes real value for money?
NMH service providers/SFE• NMH services, eg, specialist learning support, assistive technology training) to provide SLAs registered with SFE, specifying the details of key services as part of endorsing the like for like principle. Eg, – Is the student being trained effectively? – Does training take place on their entire suite of equipment and home set up (ATT) or not? – Skype (SpLD/ATT/Mentoring) – Curriculum (SpLD/ATT)• This needs to be verified by student feedback.• Sector mechanisms to enable students to be better informed about what they can expect from these specialist services that claim to build skills.
Assistive Technology Training• Succinct, professional, constructive feedback to Access Centres/Assessors regarding any aspect of the DSA equipment, eg – Missing or faulty items of equipment, – Any further needs becoming evident through process of training. – This to be supported by Access Centres/Assessors responding in a student centred manner.• Customisation of equipment/software/accessories, including remote login pathways to university website;• Effective teaching - Students are capable of becoming confident and competent in the use of assistive technology for effective study; – Sufficiently detailed, nuanced, context specific teaching of strategies for study using technology. – Taking into account the working environment, including ergonomics, so that students can build an effective working knowledge. – Individualised, taking into account particular student needs. Attentive listening and evaluation of learner’s pace.