DSA suppliers want QAG's cash mountain to go to students

08 October 2019

It is not clear what will happen to the significant cash surplus and resources belonging to the charity that audits suppliers of technology and services under the Disabled Students Allowances (DSA).

The DSA Quality Assurance Group (DSA-QAG), which was founded 13 years ago to administer quality assurance frameworks for assessment centres, assistive technology suppliers, and non-medical help provision, is to close at the end of the year.

The closure was triggered by the announcement of proposed new arrangements for delivering support for disabled students to be introduced soon.

“The Board concluded that it was not feasible to continue to operate due to the significant loss of revenue to our business in 2020,” Chief Executive Karen Docherty explained in a letter to the organisation’s clients.

“We have all made a difference collectively for the good of disabled students and I hope that the DSA reforms continue to improve the services and support delivered for DSA students now and in the future.

“With regards to the current audit cycles underway, DSA-QAG will aim to complete the assessment centre and outreach audit cycles by the 31 October 2019 in line with our service level agreement.”

However, there has been no announcement about what will happen to the surplus funds held by DSA-QAG. Accounts for the financial year ending 31 March 2018 show assets of £690,000 and liabilities of £223,000. The accounts show a cash surplus of some £200,000 for 2018.

BATA, along with the other professional representative bodies is exploring how the surplus QAG funds may be distributed to a charity that supports students with disabilities. A proposal will be presented to DSA-QAG.

Additionally, DSA service providers have indicated to both the Department for Education (DfE) and The Student Loans Company that they wish to ensure that the quality of support for disabled students is maintained, and that the many important functions of DSA-QAG are quickly adopted by other organisations.

The recent DfE research examining the impact of DSAs highlighted the overwhelmingly positive effect that the programme has on student access to and success in higher education. DSAs provide vital support for thousands of students and the quality of this support must be protected and built upon.

BATA is not aware of any decision being announced about the future of the DSA-QAG website, which contains detailed guidance for students, and valuable student reviews, which can be accessed by Needs Assessors, ATSPs and NMH providers. Enquiries are being referred to the Department for Education.