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Why the demo is vital for disabled students

Thursday 03-11-2016 - 12:59

The national demonstration is a rallying cry for free education. This means an education free, not just in the financial sense, but in the sense that it is accessible for all, placing the needs of students above the profits of corporations. For disabled students, it is more important than ever that our demands are realised:  We are calling for a free education that is open and accessible for disabled students and that provides them with the support they need. 

Government cuts and austerity measures have hit disabled students first and hardest. The Disabled Students’ Allowance is a lifeline for many university students, as it helps with the costs of necessary support to allow disabled students equal access to higher education. However, the £30 million worth of government cuts to DSA has forced this cost back onto universities, while in FE, there is no equivalent government support for disabled students at all. If institutions can’t shoulder these costs, or are unwilling to, disabled students will lose out. 

We need to demand an education that is supportive for all students. Mental health on campuses is in crisis – research has shown that four in five students experience mental health difficulties, but only half of us ever get given a proper diagnosis and access to support. Student mental health is made worse by skyrocketing student debt; tuition fee rises and cuts to maintenance grants are leaving students in a situation more precarious than ever. 

But the help that is available to those who are struggling with mental health problems on campuses can be extremely limited. The decimation of counselling and support services due to cuts in the NHS mean that the support available to students is shrinking in real terms. Students who seek help are often faced with huge waiting times for counselling services because there just aren’t enough counsellors on campus. Quite simply, university counselling services are chronically underfunded. The situation in FE is even worse: huge funding cuts mean that the support that is on offer has been slashed – 55 per cent of colleges have experienced cutbacks and 42 per cent have no full-time mental health worker. College mergers mean that when support exists, it may be inaccessible for students if it is located on a campus too far from where a particular student is based.  

Disabled students need the demands of the national demo to be realized. We demand that the government invest in education, and our educational institutions must invest in mental health provision. They must prioritise the needs of disabled students. We must demand that the welfare of students is prioritized above the profits that can be made off them. 

Disabled students deserve to be able to make their voices heard, and we should be at the heart of this demo. Make sure to book wheelchair accessible coaches so that more students have the chance to join the demonstration. There will be a bloc at the front at the march for disabled students, but for those who can’t or don’t want to join the march, there’ll be a London Demo HQ for people to get involved with support activities on #Nov19.

There will be a block at the front at the march for disabled students. For those who can’t or don’t want to join the march, there’ll be a London Demo HQ for people to get involved with support activities on #Nov19. Students should email campaigns@nus.org.uk to sign up.

Full guidance on disabled students and the national demo is available here.

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