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23 April 2024 - Disabled students’ allowance - Oral evidence

Committee Education Committee
Inquiry Disabled students’ allowance

Tuesday 23 April 2024

Start times: 9:30am (private) 10:00am (public)

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Capita and Study Tech Ltd face MPs over contracts to run Disabled Students’ Allowance 

The Education Committee will hold a one-off session on the way Disabled Students’ Allowance is administered under a newly reformed system that has been subcontracted to Capita and Study Tech Ltd.

Meeting details

At 10:00am: Oral evidence
Work Disabled students’ allowance (Non-inquiry session)
Head of Education at Thomas Pocklington Trust
Chair at National Network of Assessment Centres
Chair at National Association of Disability Practitioners
At 10:40am: Oral evidence
Work Disabled students’ allowance (Non-inquiry session)
Managing Director of Education Programmes at Capita
Managing Director at Study Tech
At 11:20am: Oral evidence
Work Disabled students’ allowance (Non-inquiry session)
Minister for School System and Student Finance at Department for Education
Deputy Director Student Funding Policy and Student Loans Company Sponsorship at Department for Education
CEO at Student Loans Company

MPs will question practitioners, managing directors for the two companies, Minister Baroness Barran and senior officials from the Student Loans Company and Department for Education.

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) grants help people with a disability, neurodivergence, mental health condition or long-term health problem cover costs for technology or equipment needed for their studies in higher education. The Government spends £136m on DSA a year. In 2021/22 there were 83,111 students in receipt of DSA across 557 higher education institutions.

Following a change to the system which began in February 2024, Capita and Study Tech now carry out needs assessments of students in England and Wales who apply for DSA. The companies also provide assistive technology and training for how to use it. This work is carried out after the Student Loans Company receives a student’s application and confirms they are eligible.

The change was prompted after years of feedback to the Student Loans Company that the process of getting help from DSA was complex, bureaucratic and fragmented.

However, there are concerns that this has caused disruption, as many smaller suppliers whom Capita and Study Tech have replaced, and whom students have relationships with, may abruptly close or leave the market. This is despite suggestions in 2022 that the transition would happen gradually.

There are also concerns that with only two companies now dominating the market, there will be less choice for students if they are unhappy with the service they receive, and that the firms will introduce more online assessments rather than face-to-face. This comes after reports that the contracts were awarded on the basis that both companies will carry out DSA assessments at a fraction of the previous cost.

Capita has faced criticism in the past for its delivery of disability assessments for the Department for Work and Pensions. It was reported this week that Capita had lost a contract it held with the Department for Education’s Standards and Testing Agency (STA) for management of SATs tests.

In this session, the cross-party Committee will investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the new system, the two companies’ capacity to carry out the service to a high standard, and the communication and consultation processes around the changes.


Room 15, Palace of Westminster

How to attend