Review of Disabled Students Allowance: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/17/02780
Date received: 15 November 2017
Date responded: 11 December 2017

Information requested

FOI (1) - To provide details of the date of the Equality Impact Assessment regarding the Review of DSA, and the date of the Review itself.

FOI (2) - Statistics regarding age of DSA recipients

FOI (3) - Exceptions Policy/Process

FOI (4) - Details of how flexibility within the rules was/is made known to relevant people

FOI (5) - Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG)

FOI (6) - Equality Impact Assessments regarding legislation


FOI (1) - To provide details of the date of the Equality Impact Assessment regarding the Review of DSA, and the date of the Review itself.

The Review of Disabled Students Allowance commenced in January 2007 with the recommendations from the Review announced in March 2009.

An Equality Impact Assessment was carried out as part of this Review over the timescales mentioned above.

A link to the Equality Impact Assessment relating to the Review of Disabled Students Allowance is included for ease of reference: Equality Impact Assessment

FOI (2) – Statistics regarding age of DSA recipients

Attached as PDF document (Appendix J)

FOI (3) – Exceptions Policy/Process

SAAS do not have a formal exceptions process in regards to DSA course eligibility; however they do provide guidance to DSA Advisors in the DSA Advisors Guidance document which states:

To be eligible for funding, part-time students must be undertaking at least 50% of the normal length of a full time course and must not take more than twice the normal length of time to complete it i.e. a student undertaking a 4 year BA on a part-time basis must take no longer than 8 years to complete it. For OU [Open University] students this equates to at least 60 credits per year.

In exceptional cases we can fund students who have to cut back on their time in one session providing they make up the time in subsequent years and do not take longer than twice the length of the standard course to complete it. E.g. a student on a 1 year HNC course could exceptionally do 60% of the course in year 1 and 40% in year 2. In these cases Disability Advisors must contact us [SAAS] to get approval and provide good reasons and supporting evidence.

The DSA Advisors Guidance document is issued to advisors each year and is available for them to access on the SAAS Higher Education Institution (HEI) portal, which is an online information hub for staff within institutions. The 2017/18 guidance was issued on 21 June 2017. We are unable to answer point (c) as this guidance is disseminated to advisors rather than students.

It should be noted that there is also a formal exceptions process in place for instances during the needs assessment process where it may become apparent that an institution feels it appropriate to recommend an unusual item of equipment/support for the applicant.

To avoid the application being refused automatically, institutions mark these claims as 'exceptional' within the report to SAAS, fully justifying the reasons behind their recommendation. There is a formal process in place to handle these 'exceptional' cases and reference to 'exceptional cases' in Widening Access and Participation and Review of DSA refer to these situations. Guidance on this exceptions process was disseminated to Disability Advisors. An extract from the guidance on the exceptions process is enclosed below:


Although this guidance should cover most of the things that we can and cannot pay for there may be exceptional cases that are not covered in this guidance or things that do not easily fall within the scope of what we normally pay for. These cases are known as exceptions and we have a formal process for dealing with them.

In the first instance Disability Advisors should make sure that the equipment or support the student requires cannot be provided for by another department e.g. Social Work, NHS or a Local Authority, also that it does not fall to the institution under the Equality Act. Once it has been established that the support required cannot be provided by another organisation, to enable us to consider it under our exceptions rules the following process should be followed:

Initially the needs assessor should highlight the exception as part of their needs assessment, ensuring that they provide us with full details of why the student requires the support/equipment, why it is not available from another source e.g. Social Work department or institution and what alternatives have been looked at.

The request will go to the DSA team initially and if they cannot approve the item they will forward it to the SAAS policy team for a review. If the Policy team are unable to make a decision they will refer the case to the policy team in the Higher Education and Learning Support division of the Scottish Government (HELS). Finally if appropriate we can ask an expert panel made up of members of the Disabled Students' Stakeholders Group to review the case and provide a final opinion. The flow chart below shows the exceptions process in full and the case studies highlight some exceptional items that DSA team have recently made decisions on.

As each exceptional case is looked at on an individual basis the decision to award funding should not be taken as setting a precedent with regards to similar claims in the future. There will be instances where we agree a piece of equipment or type of support for one student but refuse funding for another. Similarly there will be occasions where support or equipment that we normally refuse to pay for is agreed for an individual student because their circumstances are significantly different enough to justify it.

We are unable to answer points 1 (d), (e), (g), (h) and (k) under section 17(1) of the FOI(S)A as this is information that we do not hold. We are unable to answer points 1 (i) and (j) as they are not applicable. We are unable to answer points 2 (a) and (b) as a formal policy does not exist.

Please see response on guidance produced in relation to funding for exceptional cases. In terms of the two 'exceptions' processes mentioned under FOI (3), these cases are administered by the SAAS DSA team and may be escalated to SAAS Policy or the Scottish Government for final decision. As indicated in the extract from the DSA Advisors Guidance, an expert panel made up of members of the Disabled Students Stakeholder Group can be asked to review a case and provide a final opinion. This process allows the Scottish Government to consult experts within the sector to advise on exceptional cases if required. It is important to note that this is not a permanent group and advice is sought on an Ad Hoc basis as and when needed.

FOI (4) – Details of how flexibility within the rules was/is made known to relevant people

Information that is provided to Disability Advisors as part of the Disability Advisors Guidance on flexibility of study due to the student having a disability has been provide under FOI (3).

FOI (5) – Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG)

Prior to the review of student support the Scottish Government published a student guide to the DSA and a more general guide 'Helping you Meet the Cost of Learning: Funding for Disabled students. Both of these guides were updated following the review, however, we do not hold any information on what sections specifically, were updated as a result of the review.

Following the review, in addition to the above, new guidance was produced to complement the existing material – the DSA Advisors Guidance. Copies of the DSA Advisors guidance for years 2009 to 2017 and the Student Guide to DSA for academic years 2009/2010 have been attached as PDF documents and named accordingly (Appendix A-I).

Previous copies of the Helping you Meet the Cost of Learning: Funding for Disabled students can be found on the Scottish Government website Helping You Meet the Cost of Learning

Finally, as part of the PR and Marketing campaign, SAAS developed a DSA infographic which was used across a range of their social media channels (a copy of this has been included) in order to raise awareness. SAAS also highlighted DSA in their PR video which was used widely within the campaign and sits within their YouTube Channel:Funding Awareness

The SAAS communications strategy and plan refers to the diversity of all of their students and does not specifically break them down into each demographic (as they are vast and varied) and is covered in the extracted more generic lines below:

  • Targeting key demographics to ensure we engage effectively with messages and creative that resonate with our diverse audience base, by using a wide range of methods and multiple channels.
  • Pitching communications at the right level for the diversity of our audience groups and balance messaging that students must take responsibility for completing their applications on time, and if they fail to do so, they may not receive their funding on time.
  • Raising awareness and ensuring all students, institutions and key influencers are fully aware we are open for business, the services and funding we provide and the application process.

FOI (6) – Equality Impact Assessments regarding legislation

I can confirm that an Equality Impact Assessment was carried out relating to the age cap on student maintenance loans as set out in regulation 3 of the Education (student loans) (Scotland) Regulations 2007. This was published in October 2016. A copy of the EQIA is attached for your reference (Appendix K).

The following documents are attached:

Appendix Title Format Size
A 2009 DSA Advisors Guidance PDF 704KB
B 2010 DSA Advisors Guidance PDF 750KB
C 2011 DSA Advisors Guidance PDF 648KB
D 2012 DSA Advisors Guidance PDF 649KB
E 2013 DSA Advisors Guidance PDF 315KB
F 2014 DSA Advisors Guidance PDF 605KB
G 2015 DSA Advisors Guidance PDF 789KB
H 2016 DSA Advisors Guidance PDF 687KB
I 2017 DSA Advisors Guidance PDF 699KB
J Age of DSA recipients PDF 162KB
K Age cap EQIA PDF 301KB
L Student guide to DSA PDF 56KB
M DSA Awareness PDF 117KB

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

FOI-17-02780-Annex A-2009 DSA Advisors Guidance.pdf
FOI-17-02780-Annex B-2010 DSA Advisors Guidance.pdf
FOI-17-02780-Annex C-2011 DSA Advisors Guidance.pdf
FOI-17-02780-Annex D-2012 DSA Advisors Guidance.pdf
FOI-17-02780-Annex E-2013 DSA Advisors Guidance.pdf
FOI-17-02780-Annex F-2014 DSA Advisors Guidance.pdf
FOI-17-02780-Annex G-2015 DSA Advisors Guidance.pdf
FOI-17-02780-Annex H-2016 DSA Advisors Guidance.pdf
FOI-17-02780-Annex I-2017 DSA Advisors Guidance.pdf
FOI-17-02780-Annex J-Age of DSA recipients.pdf
FOI-17-02780-Annex K-Age Cap EQIA.pdf
FOI-17-02780-Annex L-Student guide to DSA.pdf


Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

Back to top