Switching to virtual delivery overnight to ensure students get the support they need

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Capita’s Contact Associates provides assessments to help students with a disability, health problem or learning difficulty to access the Disabled Students Allowance (DSA).

The DSA is a non means tested fund for students in higher education or at university. If a student has a condition which affects their ability to study, the payment can help them access assisted technology such as ‘lecture capture’ or non-medical help such as an additional tutor.

The fund is made available by the Department for Education and then administered through the Student Loans Company. Rather than being a cash payment, the money is used to help the student directly access support. The DSA has a huge impact on students, helping them to complete their education on a more level playing field with their peers.

Responding to the challenge during the pandemic

Our skilled and experienced disability specialists provide 10,000 assessments a year, which is a fifth of the total number carried out in the UK. The Department for Education has always stipulated that these assessments need to take place face-to-face. However, when Covid-19 began to take hold around the world, we knew that this wouldn’t be possible.

We sought permission to move to a virtual service to ensure that disabled students didn’t lose out on the support that may be available to them. Once approved, we immediately set to work compiling online videos to showcase the assisted technology available. Our specialists would normally demonstrate this technology during face-to-face assessments, so we wanted to make sure that the students could still see the benefits.

We also re-wrote our training program for our assessors to ensure that they could deliver the same high standard of service virtually.

How we helped

On 19th March, four days before the UK entered full lockdown, we switched to virtual delivery. Students were given online appointments and sent links to the online videos showcasing the assisted technology. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. The students told us that they preferred the virtual assessments as this reduced the anxiety they felt before the appointment. 96% of students felt confident that the recommendations from the assessment took account of their specific needs.

The ‘failure to attend’ rate dropped from 8% to just 2% and people told us that they felt they were still getting the same level of support. One student told us: “During the assessment, the assessor put me at ease about speaking on the phone and she knew what I needed, including when I talked about how anxious I might be when starting university in September.”

The future

Our ability to react and deploy our new delivery model quickly has provided significant benefits to students. And of course, when we are able to, we look forward to offering both face-to-face and virtual appointments to students to reduce any anxiety and ensure they understand the support that is available to them. 

Visit the Contact Associates website to find out more.

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