The welfare reform bill set to be implemented in April has led to fears for the future of disabled students as the Disability Living Allowance is set to replace Personal Independence Payments (PIP). This may lead to the ‘exclusion of disabled people’ from society and may mean that over 280,000 disabled people will not get support or be affected by 2016.
30,000 disabled students entered higher education in 2012, an increase of 75 per cent from 2004, UCAS figures report. Currently, Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) funds a non-medical helper and welfare benefits with full-time students receiving £70 a week through DLA to pay the extra costs of living with a disability. Part-time students are also eligible for Employment and Support Allowance benefit for £99.85, which pays for personal support to help disabled people work. However, without the support of welfare benefits and academic support provided by DSA, many may not be able to enter university and have thus limited the potential of disabled recipients. A decent education is pivotal in leading disabled people into work, yet the barriers are substantial.
The government needs to stop creating barriers for disabled students if they want them to participate in society. Disabled students want to make a difference to society and participate, which is evident in the rise in applications for university. Yet extra funding and finance from welfare benefits is essential for this to occur. The Tories’ insistence on removing a welfare state will cause continuous problems for many disabled students, with many either being put off or obstructed by financial concerns.
This is the stance adopted by Neil Coyle of Disability Alliance, who thinks that some students may lose out completely: “If people are mis-assessed, they simply won’t get their DLA. It’s a huge blow to students because their benefits are linked, so if they don’t get DLA then they won’t get housing benefit either.“
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