Activists have vowed to fight the government’s decision to press ahead with cuts to support for disabled students in higher education of nearly £30 million a year.Universities and science minister Jo Johnson announced yesterday (Wednesday) that – following a public consultation – cuts to the system of disabled students’ allowance (DSA) will go ahead for new claimants starting courses after 1 September 2016.Reforms to the DSA system were originally announced last year, but strong opposition to the plans meant the introduction of most of the measures was delayed for a year, from 2015 to 2016.Campaigners have warned that the cuts – which could reach more than 20 per cent of DSA funding – will make it harder for disabled students to study at university.Among support that will usually not be funded through DSAs are claims for readers, manual note-takers, laboratory assistants and library support assistants, as well as extra disability-related accommodation costs.The reforms will push greater responsibility onto universities, and away from DSA, a non-means-tested grant that assists with the extra costs a disabled student faces while in higher education, and which cost the government £145.8 million in 2012-13.Johnson said in the written statement that universities should do more to “discharge their duties under the Equality Act to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled students, as other organisations and businesses do”.He claimed that “continued provision of DSAs may have removed the urgency of some [higher education] providers to expand provision for all disabled students”.But his Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) admitted last year, in an equality impact analysis (EIA), that if the reforms went ahead there was a risk that “disabled students may find themselves without the appropriate support from institutions and at the same time find DSAs are no longer available”.In a new EIA published this week, BIS said: “If institutions do not mitigate the effect of the changes to DSA funding then some [disabled] students may be disproportionately affected by the proposed change.”Johnson announced limited concessions this week, following the consultation, including an agreement to continue to provide DSA for the extra costs of specialist accommodation – but not if provided by the university itself – for some scanners, printers and digital voice recorders; and to pay for sighted guides.He also pledged to hold discussions with “stakeholders” to consider whether there should be exceptions to the new rules for DSA awards for non-medical support.Tara Flood (pictured), director of The Alliance for Inclusive Education, said she was “really disappointed but not surprised” by the announcement.She said: “This is just part of a wider ideological attack on disabled people accessing education at any level, whether it be school, further education or higher education.”She said the government’s own EIA showed that universities that accepted disabled students would feel “penalised” by the new policy. This would lead to lower admissions of disabled students, which she said was “disgraceful”.She said: “The government seems to be hell-bent on attacking disabled people and removing any rights that we might already have.”ALLFIE now plans to talk to the National of Students (NUS) about possible joint action against the cuts.Flood said: “We are certainly not going to sit back and wring our hands about it. We need to take a more unified approach with other campaigning organisations that share the same concerns.”NUS said it was “disappointed” by the government’s response to the consultation, and accused ministers of not listening to disabled students and other stakeholders.Maddy Kirkman, NUS disabled students’ officer, said: “All disabled students deserve to have the support they need to access higher education.“NUS is concerned the government’s response to the consultation will impact the consistency of the support available and place a huge financial burden on some institutions.“NUS and other stakeholders have had our concerns ignored. To make higher education accessible, the government needs to work with students and institutions and take our views into account, not brush them aside.”The union added: “We also believe the government’s plans for monitoring and evaluating these proposals are very vague.“Inadequate evaluation will prevent us from assessing the real impact of these reforms on disabled students and their access to higher education.”The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) said it was “bitterly disappointed” that the cuts would go ahead.Susan Daniels, NDCS chief executive, said: “We know that deaf students can achieve just as much as their hearing peers, but the right support must be in place.“As it stands, we have no way of knowing if universities will pick up the cost of vital support staff.“Deaf students desperately need support such as note-takers because they cannot lip-read a lecturer or follow a sign language interpreter and take notes at the same time.“Deaf young people are telling us they feel the government is intent on making it more difficult for them to go to university.”Mags Lewis, the Green party’s disability spokeswoman, warned that disabled students could “fall into a no man’s land, with the government, DSA and colleges and universities claiming it’s everyone else’s responsibility”.She said: “Poorer, less advantaged students at cash-strapped universities will be the hardest hit by this decision.“Sadly some students will drop out and some potential students won’t enrol.”Disability Rights UK said it was “disappointed” that the changes would go ahead, but welcomed what it said were “potentially important concessions”.Philip Connolly, DR UK’s policy manager and chair of the DSA anti-cuts campaign group No Cap on Aspiration, said: “It remains to be seen from the detail and implementation what discretion the universities can exercise but the concessions do demonstrate the value of continued lobbying and collective action.”
ST HELENS RFC has announced that Lee Gaskell has signed a new three-year contract with the Club.The 20-year-old half-back made his debut against Catalan Dragons in July 2010 and has appeared eight times so far for his home town team.A former Blackbrook amateur, he has settled into the first team squad well after a successful academy career and the contract will keep him at the Saints until the end of 2013.“Lee has stepped into first team comfortably so far this season and is likely to get plenty of opportunity ahead,” commented Saints Head Coach Royce Simmons. “He has a good running and kicking game and the potential to become a regular member of the first team.”Chairman Eamonn McManus added: “Lee is another product of our academy and has fitted seamlessly into a position initially vacated by injury.“He has the ability to become a top Super League player for the Saints in the years ahead and is clearly very proud to be a part of team and the Club.“We wish him every success for his future with us and I know that we are assured of his absolute commitment to the Saints cause.”
SAINTS failed to take advantage of a strong start as they went down 24-12 in a sell out derby. Wigan made the best of their opportunities to lead 16-0 at half time before Joe Greenwood sparked a mini comeback. But the damage had been done despite a late score from Theo Fages. Saints dominated the early stages, forcing a drop out and repeat sets. Luke Walsh combined with Jon Wilkin to set Theo Fages free and then more enterprising play saw Tommy Makinson almost profit. That pattern continued for the opening 15 minutes but once Wigan got a foothold, Saints struggled. The Warriors won back to back sets and a penalty – and the ball headed right for Manfredi to put them ahead. On their next attacking set the winger repeated his feat too, cutting Saints up down the right side to create the space for Sam Powell to increase the lead. The young hooker simply tapping the ball forward from the play the ball and collecting the kick, to go under the posts. And on the half hour mark it got worse as Joel Tomkins cut through the right hand side to make it 14-0 to the Warriors. Matty Smith converting for 16-0. Saints had a dig as the end of the half approached and should have got themselves back into the game. LMS was held up over the line and then a kick to the corner from Walsh failed to find Makinson. Saints needed a strong start to the second half – and got anything but as from the kick off the ball went dead for a drop out. The defence did the trick though and then Makinson was unlucky not to profit as he chipped over the top. Charnley had one chalked off for a ball steal but Smith added a penalty on the 50 minute mark to extend the advantage more. Saints weathered the storm and then hit back through Joe Greenwood following a number of repeat sets. But they couldn’t profit once more and Smith ghosted through a massive gap to seal the win. Fages pulled one back on the closing stages to cap a solid performance from the Frenchman but the damage had been done. Match Summary: Saints: Tries: Greenwood, Fages Goals: Walsh (2 from 2) Warriors: Tries: Manfredi, Powell, Tomkins, Smith Goals: Smith (4 from 5) Penalties: Saints: 9 Warriors: 8 HT: 0-16 FT: 12-24 REF: R Hicks ATT: 17,890 Teams: Saints: 23. Shannon McDonnell; 2. Tommy Makinson, 18. Dominique Peyroux, 21. Matty Dawson, 22. Jack Owens; 19. Theo Fages, 7. Luke Walsh; 14. Lama Tasi, 6. Travis Burns, 10. Kyle Amor, 12. Jon Wilkin, 20. Joe Greenwood, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Subs: 8. Alex Walmsley, 9. James Roby, 15. Greg Richards, 17. Luke Thompson. Wigan: 4. Dan Sarginson; 5. Dominic Manfredi, 3. Anthony Gelling, 20. Oliver Gildart, 2. Josh Charnley; 13. Sean O’Loughlin, 7. Matty Smith; 10. Ben Flower, 16. Sam Powell, 15. Tony Clubb, 11. Joel Tomkins, 14. John Bateman, 26. Greg Burke. Subs: 17. Lee Mossop, 19. Taulima Tautai, 21. Ryan Sutton, 27. Nick Gregson.