While all students are entitled to a tuition fee loan, a means tested maintenance loan to cover living costs and sometimes a maintenance grant, additional grants are available for disabled students.
Here we review the extra funding available to UK students with a disability.
Disabled Students' Allowance
Whichever part of the UK you are from and whether you are studying in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, if you have a disability that will impact your studies while in higher education, you are able to apply for Disabled Students' Allowance.
It is available if you are an undergraduate or postgraduate student with a physical condition, learning difficulties, a mental health condition or a long-term medical condition.
You can apply for this allowance to help with the following costs:
Small purchases such as extra photocopying, braille paper or a dictaphone
Larger specialist equipment you may require for your studies as a result of your disability; for instance, voice recognition software, a computer, printer and scanner. Although equipment that is needed by all students on a course would not be covered.
Non-medical personal help such as the services of a reader, note taker, sign language interpreter, proof reader or mentor. This doesn't cover extra tuition specific to the subject area, personal care or any other help unrelated to your studies.
The additional costs of travel which a disability brings, such as being unable to use public transport.
The level of help you receive from Disabled Students' Allowance is determined by your disability and whether your course is full-time or part-time; your household income does not influence the payment.
Allowances for both the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 academic years are:
Full time students:
Specialist equipment allowance: up to £5,212 for the whole course
Non-medical helper allowance: up to £20,725 a year
General allowance Up to £1,741 a year
Part time students:
Specialist equipment allowance: up to £5,212 for the whole course
Non-medical helper allowance: up to £15,453 a year
General allowance Up to £1,305 a year
If you are a postgraduate, you can claim an annual allowance of up to £10,362.
You do not need to repay any DSA you receive and can claim it in addition to other forms of student finance although you can't get if it you receive an NHS Disabled Students' Allowance or similar funding from the university you attend.
Payment is either made into your account or straight to the organisation providing the products or services you need and you will not have to repay any of the costs incurred.
For consideration for this form of funding, you need to complete a form available from Student Finance England, Wales or Northern Ireland or from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland. If you qualify you will have to undergo a needs assessment to determine the level of funding you will receive.
NHS Disabled Students' Allowance
If you are a disabled student taking a course funded by NHS England or Wales, the Scottish Government Health Directorate or you are receiving a bursary from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland, you can get financial assistance if your disability means you incur additional costs to attend the training.
It covers similar costs to the Disabled Students' Allowance and a recent assessment of your needs is required as proof of eligibility.
For postgraduate social work students who get a bursary from NHS England or the Care Council for Wales, if you have a disability an additional payment is included within your bursary.
Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment
Besides financial assistance with your studies, you may be able to claim additional funding towards day-to-day living while you are a student.
If you need help to care for yourself or to get around, you may already be receiving Disability Living Allowance, which is being phased out and replaced with a similar benefit known as a Personal Independence Payment (PIP). If you are applying for assistance for the first time, you will be considered for the latter.
Being in higher education will not adversely affect your eligibility to claim PIP as the payment is based on need rather than your family or partner's income; it is also unaffected by any other student funding you may receive.
The level of payment you receive will be dependent on the extent to which your disability impacts the care you require and your ability to mobilise.
A claim form is available from the Department of Work and Pensions, and after completing and returning this, you will need to complete an assessment.
Employment and Support Allowance
If you are unable to work as a result of your disability while a student, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you are studying part-time.
Full-time students usually cannot claim this unless you satisfy one of the following criteria:
You have already made adequate national insurance contributions to obtain contributory ESA.
You meet criteria for contributory ESA in youth and are aged over 19.
You receive Disability Living Allowance at any rate of payment.
In either case you will be required to complete an assessment to demonstrate that your disability would prevent you from working.
Whether on a part-time or full- time course, you can claim housing benefit if you are a student with a disability. You will qualify for this in the following instances:
You receive Disability Students' Allowance for deafness.
You are classed as having a disability premium (you receive Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment) or a severe disability premium (on top of receiving the care component of either DLA or PIP, you live alone and no one receives carer allowance for providing care to you).
Help towards travel costs
If your mobility is affected or you are unable to travel alone, this will often mean that the journey to and from university on a daily basis leads to extra costs.
Your disability may mean you are entitled to a concessionary bus pass that entitles you to free bus travel or a Disabled Persons Railcard that allows you and a companion to receive a third off most rail fares.
Alternatively, you may be able to take advantage of the Motability scheme that enables those with a disability to lease a car; once you have a car you will also be able to apply for vehicle tax exemption and a blue badge to allow you to park in more accessible areas.
Researching the financial assistance available to you as a disabled student and accessing all the funding to which you are entitled will allow you to be in a more comfortable financial situation while you pursue your studies.