Lawyers have claimed that the lack of consultation with students over changes to Disabled Student Allowances (DSA) is unlawful and expects the government to face a legal challenge from learning and physical disability charities.
Firm Irwin Mitchell is seeking a judicial review of the proposals by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to limit the level of DSA which is currently given to more than 60,000 students each year to help pay for support, such as specialist equipment and accommodation.
The legal challenge, supported by the National Deaf Children’s Society and Ambitious About Autism, is being brought on behalf of a student with hearing difficulties who hopes to start university in September, when the changes are set to begin, and a current student with autism who currently receives DSA.
Both say they would have wanted to be consulted about the proposed restrictions to DSA because they have concerns that it will prevent some disabled students from being able to complete their studies or even start a degree programme.
The law firm is asking the Government to halt these changes to DSA until a public and accessible consultation is conducted to enable all disabled students to take part. The changes will currently be applicable for people starting university in September 2015.
DSA is available for people with a disability, including a sensory impairment, autistic spectrum condition, long-term health condition, mental health condition or a specific learning difficulty like dyslexia.
Secretary of State Vince Cable has stated that he has "no such duty to consult individuals [with disabilities] in these circumstances". However, Irwin Mitchell claims this is unlawful as they are directly affected by the changes.
The Government says it is expecting Higher Education Institutions to cover the costs involved through their duty to make reasonable adjustments instead of DSA being granted to the student. The Claimants and the disability charities who are supporting their claim are concerned that in the absence of further funding that expectation is unrealistic.