Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
DSAs are designed to ensure that students who have a long term health condition or disability are not disadvantaged in accessing their University studies. You do not pay this money back, but it is there to provide support as and when you need it. It is not means tested - the amount you receive depends upon your individual needs.
Many students with long term mental health conditions apply for this, because it means they can then access 1:1 support from a Specialist Mental Health Mentor. Counselling and some other university services can often have long waiting lists - mentoring, on the other hand, can provide you with regular input from a mental health professional. You might be recommended an hour or more a week, and you can usually arrange this quite flexibly with your mentor, depending on their schedule. Remote support (e.g. via Zoom/Skype/phone) is also possible.
If you have a dual or multiple diagnosis, such as Aspergers/Autism, a visual impairment , dyslexia or epilepsy the support recommendations will take all of these things into account.
Even if you are not sure if you will need this support, it is worth applying so that it's then just in case you need it (and also because it is quite a long process).
Who can apply
- Students with long term mental health conditions with or without a formal diagnosis
- Your condition must have lasted or be expected to last longer than 12 months
- Students with multiple impairments
- Your course must last longer than 1 year
- Can include distance learning courses
You can use Ability Net's online eligibility checker to see if you might be eligible. If you are unsure if you are eligible, or if you are not eligible but still think you need extra support because of a long term health condition (e.g. if you are an international student), please contact your university's disability team directly. They may have equivalent funding or other know of other funding you can apply for.
If you are unsure about sharing information about (disclosing) your mental health, please read our webpage: Disclosing a mental health condition
What support might I receive
Each student is individually assessed on their needs but things which have been recommended for students with mental health conditions include:
- Computer software that can help with study - for example, for time management or organisation.
- Notetaking support for issues with concentration
- Travel allowance, for example if you have a condition which makes it hard for you to use public transport
- 1:1 Specialist Mental Health Mentoring/1:1 Specialist Autism Mentoring
The easiest thing to do if you are an undergraduate applying for student finance, is to tick the relevant box when asked about your health. For Student Finance England/Wales students, this will then give you online access to the DSAs application form and ensure you don't need to repeat the same information. For Scottish students, the process is slightly different - please see the link below.
Postgraduate students are also eligible to receive DSAs. Who funds this depends on the type of course you are applying for. Please see our links below for more information.
You will need to supply some medical evidence. Some students tell us this can be the most difficult part of applying for DSAs; we'd recommend that you Google "DSA evidence proforma" to access the most up to date version. You can then ask your GP or psychiatrist to complete this form. If they are reluctant to do so, please speak to your Mental Health Adviser or Disability Adviser for more advice.
Once you have submitted your application form and evidence, if eligible, you will then be asked to attend an assessment (these can be online). The assessment is carried out independently and is designed to help work out the best support for you. Most students are pleasantly surprised about how positive the experience is, as it is very different to a medical assessment, and is all about finding out about you and your needs. You can bring a friend or family member if you like.
The assessor will write a report to be sent first to you, and then to the funding body. You will then receive a letter telling you what support you are entitled to and how to access this. You do not receive the money personally, and all of the payment is done for you (although you may have to sign timesheets for support received).
UK Research and Innovation- DSAs for Postgraduate students with research council funding
Student Awards Agency Scotland - DSAs for Scottish students
Student Finance Wales - DSAs for Welsh students
Gov.uk - DSAs for English students and for clear information about eligibility and the process. Also has links for Channel Islands/Isle of Man students.
NHS Bursary - DSAs for students funded through the NHS bursaries scheme
Navigating DSAs During Covid 19 - a You Tube video explaining the process
Is DSA for you? - a personal insight into DSAs and mental health
How can DSA help students with a mental health condition? - a blog piece which helps to show what support you might receive
Mental Health and computing - an example of the type of software you might be recommended