Version 1.0 - Last Updated: 16 Feb 2021

Disabled Students Allowance (DSA)

Non-medical help


Q1: How will you deal with cancelled sessions of non-medical help?

A: The usual policy for cancelled sessions of non-medical help will continue to apply. You can find more information in:

The standard policy will continue to apply for cases where remote sessions have to be abandoned because of technical issues. Remote sessions of non-medical help support were carried out before the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no need for a change in approach.

Q2: Can non-medical help sessions be delivered remotely?

A: Yes, sessions can be provided remotely if this is appropriate. It is for a provider and their customer to decide whether this approach works for them. The provider must be confident that they can deliver effective support by remote means. The student must confirm that they are content with remote support.

We would generally not expect non-medical help sessions to be taking place if teaching on the student's course is suspended.

Any remote sessions of non-medical help should be charged at the provider's remote hourly rate.

To clarify, it is appropriate for students to continue receiving non-medical help if they are still engaged on their course, for example if teaching is being delivered remotely. The reference to suspensions above means cases where the university or college has chosen to formally suspend all teaching and activity on the course.

Q3: What steps are you taking to ensure that students know remote non-medical help is available?

A: The delivery of remote non-medical help is not a change due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. However, we have updated the content of our correspondence. This now highlights that this is an option for students if they want to have support delivered in this way.

Q4: Can non-medical help be carried out by email?

A: We do not think that it is possible to provide effective support by email. It is acceptable to provide non-medical help sessions by video call or over the phone.

We understand a phone call may not be an appropriate way of receiving one-to-one support for some students. In these cases, a service such as Text-Relay can be used.

Q5: How does a provider get confirmation of support delivered remotely?

A: If it is not possible to get a wet signature from a customer, we will be able to accept email confirmation from a student’s registered email address. Along with the invoice, the provider should submit:

  • their standard timesheet (signed by the support worker)
  • an email from the student’s registered email address confirming that the session took place

This will let us process the invoice first time without needing to ask for additional information.

A student’s 'registered email address' is the one they use to sign into their online student finance account. We prefer any responses or confirmations from the student to come from this address. However, we have been made aware that this might not always be possible. In these cases, we can look at accepting a confirmation from a university or college registered account. If a student’s university or college email address does not contain their name (for example, 1234@universityoflife.ac.uk), they should confirm this in the email body.

We still need a timesheet every time the student emails a confirmation of support.

If you need more information about acceptable forms of digital signatures, please email dsa_electronic_queries@slc.co.uk.

Q6: If a support worker cannot sign a timesheet, how can they confirm that a remote session of support has taken place?

A: If at all possible, support workers should continue to sign timesheets to confirm that support has taken place. We can also accept digital or electronic signatures. This means that the support worker has signed using a digital method. For example, they may have used the digital signature features within the PDF or signed using a tablet or touch screen.

If you need more information about acceptable forms of digital signatures, please email dsa_electronic_queries@slc.co.uk.

Q7: Will you authorise additional sessions of non-medical help support to help students deal with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental health?

A: No. The role of a mental health mentor is quite different from that of mental health advisers or counsellors. It is intended solely to help students with mental health issues to build strategies to access their learning. Students who need therapeutic or medical support, advice or guidance should be referred to their university or college or the NHS as appropriate.

Mental health advice and counselling does not fall under the remit of DSA. Specialist mentors should not be providing advice or counselling. However, we recognise that the current situation is affecting students' ability to undertake their studies in the manner they would normally have done. If necessary, requests for additional specialist mentor support should be made in the usual way.

Q8: A student needs additional hours of non-medical help support in this academic year. Will the normal process of the assessor providing the recommendation to you still apply?

A: Yes. In line with established processes, the student and their needs assessor should discuss any additional hours of support. The assessor should then make a recommendation to us.

It is not appropriate to award additional hours of non-medical help to every student as a matter of course. We know that the average uptake of non-medical help support is around 20% of the agreed amount of support. We thus expect that the hours already agreed will meet any additional need for most students during this period.

We will review any requests for additional hours on a case by case basis. We will of course consider any issues the COVID-19 pandemic presents.

We do not believe that it is necessary or appropriate to change established processes to allow non-medical help providers to request additional hours of support themselves. Providers should ask students to engage their needs assessors in good time. This will allow them to make any additional recommendations and us to review these before students use their full agreement of hours.


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