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Am I entitled to Disabled Students' Allowance?

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Many student nurses are unaware they are entitled to DSA, meaning they miss out on valuable emotional, practical and financial support

We are Diverse Learners: we specialise in supporting nursing students and you may have seen us in a previous Student Nursing Times blog talking about how important it is to have support during your nursing degree.

Diverse Learners specialises in supporting healthcare students, and this support is usually funded through Disabled Students’ Allowances (also known as a DSA).

What is a DSA?

The DSA is a government funded package of support that is provided for people who have disabilities, such as:

  • Dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD, ADHD, autistic spectrum disorders;
  • Mental health issues;
  • Long-term health conditions;
  • Sensory impairment.

The support package is tailored to your individual needs and includes:

  • Equipment;
  • Software;
  • Non-medical helpers (support workers such as dyslexia tutors or mentors).

Too many students do not access the support they are entitled to, as they:

  • Are unaware that they are eligible for this support;
  • Do not consider themselves as disabled (described in a blog by 2nd year nurse Andrea);
  • Fear disclosing they have a disability, often due to fitness to practice;
  • Have concerns around stigma.

Some universities provide support services BUT you are entitled to use independent suppliers, like Diverse Learners, to access the support that best suits you.

How can it help me?

DSA helps students continue on courses, gain better marks and have a better overall experience.

Through DSA, specialist study skills tutors and mentors support you to develop learning strategies and techniques, enabling you to become a more effective and efficient learner. They include:

  • Good study habits;
  • Essay planning;
  • Time management;
  • Organisational skills;
  • Reassurance and confidence building.

The blog, Dear Student Nurse, is written by a NQN about her DSA and the tutor it provided.

What do I need to apply?

You have to provide written evidence of your disability and, importantly, any evidence of the effect the disability has on your ability tostudy.

Evidence for DSA is important and here are some guidelines to help you:

  • Dyslexia - A FULL diagnostic report after the age of 16;
  • Dyspraxia - A diagnostic report carried out by a suitable specialist e.g. consultant or OT.

For other disabilities the evidence can be in the form of a letter from a suitable healthcare professional such as a consultant, GP or psychiatrist. These apply for:

  • AD(H)D
  • Mental health issue
  • Long term health condition

The letter must be on headed notepaper, signed by the healthcare provider, and include the type of disability and its possible impact on study. You may have to pay a fee for this.

If you do not yet have a diagnosis of dyslexia/dyspraxia but think this may apply to you, contact your university Student Support Services. Some universities will pay all or some of the cost of an assessment. Other universities expect you to pay: the cost can vary from £250 to £500. 

Then what?

The majority of student nurses are funded by NHS Bursaries. Complete this form, and send it to the NHS Bursaries address at the bottom of the form INCLUDING your evidence. Youcan contact your university advice centre for help filling out this form.

Whether you need help with the form or not, it’s a good idea to tell your disability advisor that you have done this.

Once your DSA evidence has been accepted, NHS Bursaries will tell you to book a Needs Assessment. The Needs Assessment incorporates a friendly chat with an assessor who asks you questions about which areas you find challenging and seeks to find suitable solutions, in terms of equipment, software and non-medical helpers that might help. 

FInd out more with our easy to understand visual summary of the DSA process

Applying for DSA can feel daunting, so visit the NHS Student Bursaries website for more information, or you can post questions on NHS Bursaries’ FB page.

Diverse Learners has extensive experience of supporting healthcare students through the DSA process. Feel free to ask questions about DSA and support via email on our FB page.



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