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Capita and Study Tech Ltd face MPs over contracts to run Disabled Students’ Allowance

Evidence session     

Disabled Students’ Allowance

Tuesday 23 April, 10:00, Committee Room 15, Palace of Westminster   

Watch live on ParliamentTV

The Education Committee will hold a one-off session on the way Disabled Students’ Allowance is administered under a newly reformed system that has been subcontracted to Capita and Study Tech Ltd.

MPs will question practitioners, managing directors for the two companies, Minister Baroness Barran and senior officials from the Student Loans Company and Department for Education. 

Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) grants help people with a disability, neurodivergence, mental health condition or long-term health problem cover costs for technology or equipment needed for their studies in higher education. The Government spends £136m on DSA a year. In 2021/22 there were 83,111 students in receipt of DSA across 557 higher education institutions. 

Following a change to the system which began in February 2024, Capita and Study Tech now carry out needs assessments of students in England and Wales who apply for DSA. The companies also provide assistive technology and training for how to use it. This work is carried out after the Student Loans Company receives a student’s application and confirms they are eligible.

The change was prompted after years of feedback to the Student Loans Company that the process of getting help from DSA was complex, bureaucratic and fragmented.

However, there are concerns that this has caused disruption, as many smaller suppliers whom Capita and Study Tech have replaced, and whom students have relationships with, may abruptly close or leave the market. This is despite suggestions in 2022 that the transition would happen gradually.

There are also concerns that with only two companies now dominating the market, there will be less choice for students if they are unhappy with the service they receive, and that the firms will introduce more online assessments rather than face-to-face. This comes after reports that the contracts were awarded on the basis that both companies will carry out DSA assessments at a fraction of the previous cost.

Capita has faced criticism in the past for its delivery of disability assessments for the Department for Work and Pensions. It was reported this week that Capita had lost a contract it held with the Department for Education’s Standards and Testing Agency (STA) for management of SATs tests.

In this session, the cross-party Committee will investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the new system, the two companies’ capacity to carry out the service to a high standard, and the communication and consultation processes around the changes.

Witnesses from 10:00   

  • Tara Chattaway, Head of Education, Thomas Pocklington Trust
  • Lesley Morrice, Chair, National Network of assessment centres
  • Sarah Todd, Chair, National Association of Disability Practitioners

Witnesses from 10:40

  • Laura Blackman, Managing Director of Education Programmes, Capita plc
  • Glenn Tookey, Managing Director, Study Tech ltd 

Witnesses from 11:20   

  • Baroness Barran MBE, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State, Department for Education (Minister for the School System and Student Finance);
  • Chris Larmer, CEO, Student Loans Company
  • Anne Rimmer, Deputy Director Student Funding Policy and Student Loans Company Sponsorship, Department for Education

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