Disabled students are being hit with costs of up to £1,000 while trying to access vital support.
With the whole process taking up to seven weeks and requiring the sharing of vast amounts of personal information accessing the support that universities have pledged to disabled students is “really difficult”, according to the students Vision spoke to.
Specific Learning Disabilities (SpLD) are defined by the University of York as “an umbrella term used for dyslexia, but also includes dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, and Irlens Syndrome/Visual Stress”. According to Dyslexia Action, an estimated 16% of the UK population has dyslexia, equating to an estimated 3000 students at the University of York. This doesn’t take into account other SpLD’s, meaning the actual figure could be higher.
The University requires an adult diagnosis in order to be able to claim special conditions in exams and financial support. The University’s website states that “You will need to provide us with a copy of your educational psychologist’s assessment report. We cannot accept Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) or school reports”. This means that any tests that a student may have done before they applied to uni are now likely to be invalid, requiring them to retake an assessment, even if they had already been given special conditions and financial support while in secondary education.
The University’s page links to two local private accreditation companies who can provide the assessments accepted by the University: Educational Guidance Services (EGS) and Yorkshire Dyslexia. A full assessment from EGS will cost a student £294, while a full assessment from Yorkshire Dyslexia will set a student back £400. However, one person we spoke to (who wished to remain anonymous) told us that the test to determine whether or not she had an SpLD cost her £1000.
The University has told Vision that “if the student has an SpLD and would like a student support plan for academic adjustments then it is important that the correct evidence is in place for us, but also the Disabled Students Allowance requires the correct evidence”.
The University provides a link to information regarding financial support for the assessment. This comes in the form of the Student Support Fund. In terms of SpLD tests, the University states that a refund of up to £475 can be claimed back – potentially less than half of what the assessment can cost. On top of the fact that the tests can cost up to £1,000, the grant is only a reimbursement – meaning that for many low – income students this just isn’t possible as it requires them to already have up to £475 spare to pay for the test.
EGS states that it may take up to three weeks for the assessment to be completed and sent in, and the University says it may take up to four weeks to process and evaluate all evidence once it has been sent in. This means a student may have to wait for almost two months from the initial test to see whether they will receive a refund, which may not even be granted by the University.
If the refund is not given, a student may go back to apply for the general Student Support Fund. However, this comes with even more bureaucratic nightmares. The University’s website states that they require “three months of Bank/Building Society Statements for every account in your name, including savings, overseas, and empty/unused accounts”.
The level of detail that the University requires could be seen as invasive and time consuming, with the Student Support Fund requiring up to four weeks to assess a student. Universities have also struggled with data protection for years, with the University of York itself having the data of almost 4,500 students stolen. This brings into question the level of trust that students may hold with the institutions that they belong to.
Too often, the guidance given is confusing and unclear, leaving lecturers uncertain as to how they can support their students. If a student has concerns that their plan is not being followed and they have brought this up with their lecturer/supervisor, they should contact their Head of Department, or Department Administrator.
The University also requires “an explanation for any money shown entering your account of any amount over £100 shown leaving your account. We need to know who the payment was from/to and what it was for”. The level of detail that the University requires opens a student up to intense levels of scrutiny – any small amount of money that they have received to an account that cannot be fully accounted for may result in a refusal of their claim, leaving them without crucial support.
The University has told Vision that “we advise students that if the cost of getting an Ed Psychologists Report is difficult they can apply to the Student Support Fund to help with the costs”.
YUSU have stated that “Financial assessment is available through the University Student Support Fund, which can be applied for to cover some or all of the costs… student advisers in the Student Hub can answer questions and provide guidance to students considering applying”.
Featured image by University of York