Version 1.0 - Last Updated: 16 Feb 2021

Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

Needs assessments

Q1: Can needs assessments be carried out remotely?

A: Yes, needs assessments can be carried out remotely. There is no need to seek prior authorisation from us. The location of the assessment on the NAR template can be recorded as 'Remote Assessment' or similar.

As long as the government advises social distancing, we will continue to allow remote needs assessments without the need to seek prior approval on a student by student basis. If this approach changes, we will communicate this in advance.

Q2: What if a student wants a face-to-face assessment? 

A: If the student is not comfortable with a remote assessment, they do not need to have one. If they want a face-to-face assessment but the centre they've selected cannot offer one, the centre should ask them to choose another centre. Students can do this using the online postcode search on GOV.UK.

It  is not appropriate for the company to refer a student to another centre themselves. It would not be appropriate for us to advise whether individual companies can conduct face-to-face  assessments in line with government policy on COVID-19. To be clear, it is not acceptable for the selected centre to insist that the student has a remote assessment. It is also not acceptable to insist they wait until that company can offer a face-to-face assessment.

Q3: What steps are you taking to ensure that students know they can have a remote needs assessment?

A: We have updated the content of our letters which ask students to book their needs assessments. The letters now explain that a remote assessment is an option during this period.

We regularly send reminders to students who have been made eligible for DSA but who have not yet had a needs assessment. We have updated the content of the reminders to include the option to have a remote assessment.

Q4: Can needs assessments be carried out by email?

A: We do not think it is possible to provide an effective needs assessment by email. It is acceptable to carry out assessments by video call or, if that's not possible, over the phone.

Q5: Can ergonomic assessments be carried out remotely?

A: We do not believe it is possible to carry out an effective ergonomic assessment wholly by remote means. 

Sometimes a supplier may believe they can perform an effective assessment by combining remote and on-site evaluation. If this is the case, these assessments can take place and will be acceptable for DSA purposes.

It is for individual companies to ensure they are undertaking ergonomic assessments in a COVID-secure manner in line with government guidance. It would not be appropriate for us to  provide guidance on this matter. 

Q6: Can needs assessments be sent without PGP encryption?

A: No. It would not be best practice to remove processes which help satisfy GDPR requirements.

If assessment centre staff are moving to working from home, they would need to have PGP software installed on their machines so this process can continue.

If you need a copy of the Student Finance England (SFE) or Student Finance Wales (SFW) Needs Assessment PGP Key, please email

If a centre is struggling to set up PGP for home workers, we can support in getting this set up.

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