Study funding for disabled students
Can I get funding help for studying if I'm disabled? TheSite.org offers a guide to extra funding for disabled students.
Do I have to pay tuition fees if I'm disabled?
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you can get free education up to the age of 19 (or up to 25 if you're doing your first Level 3 qualification). After this, ask the college directly if they offer discounts for disabled students, especially if you find it hard to work, or if you get a means-tested benefit. In Scotland, you don't have to pay fees for full-time FE courses. Part-time disabled students in Scotland can also study for free if they are on benefits.
Who pays for my disability support costs?
In further education you can expect your college to pay for extra educational costs. They use their Additional Learning Support funds (Scottish students get an Additional Support Needs for Learning Allowance instead) to assist learners with disabilities or learning difficulties. Support includes:
- Extra tutorial help
- Sign-language interpreters
- Changing the height of desks
- Providing handouts on different colour paper or in a larger font
If you need a computer with special software the college should provide one for you to use on campus. However, it remains the property of the college and it's unlikely you'll be allowed to take it home.
Can I get any money towards transport?
The transport situation varies, depending on where you live. There are several organisations involved.
In England and Wales, under Section 509 of the Education Act, local authorities must make sure that students aged 16-19 are not prevented from attending college because of transport difficulties. They are encouraged to provide transport support to disabled students until at least the age of 21, and ideally up to 25. You can find out about the transport policy in your area from the DirectGov website.
In Scotland, it's best to speak to your college to find out if you can get help with travel through a bursary or Additional Support Needs for Learning Allowance.
In Northern Ireland, every case is considered on an individual basis and you need to contact your local Education and Library Board (ELB).
In all areas of the UK, social services have the power to pay for transport, so it's worth asking them if you need extra help getting to and from college.
What can I do if I'm still short of money?
In England and Wales, each college has a Learner Support Fund which can help if you are facing financial hardship. You should contact your Student Support or Welfare Officer for help in applying.
A number of charitable trusts and foundations run their own grant schemes. Skill's information booklet Funding from charitable trusts lists those that support disabled students in particular.
Who pays for me to go to a specialist college?
If the type of education or support you need is not available locally, you may be able to get a place at a specialist college. Most of these colleges are independent and cater specifically for students with disabilities or learning difficulties. They are often residential.
You'll need to get financial support from the Learning and Skills Council or your local authority in England, or the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS) in Wales. There are no specialist colleges in Scotland, and only one in Northern Ireland, but you may be able to get funding for a placement elsewhere in the UK through a bursary from your local education department or ELB.
A specialist careers or Connexions advisor should be able to help you and your family apply for funding. The basic requirement is to show that your disability needs cannot be met in a local school or college. Social services will contribute towards the costs of a residential college if the programme includes a lot of care and support for your daily living needs.
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