FAQs

Next appointment:

Monday 18th December

updated 14/12/17

Christmas & New Year Closure

We close at 16:00 on Friday 22/12/17, reopening at 08:30 on Tuesday 02/01/18

Accreditation

We are accredited by the Disabled Students Allowances Quality Assurance Group (DSA-QAG)

DSA QAG accredited seal

FAQs

Forms, Guides and Applications

The different funding bodies are listed below.  Click on the links to access application forms and information on how to apply.

Research Council – you will need to contact your disability officer at your Research Organisation for advice on how to apply.

How does the application process work?

You can find a step-by-step guide to the DSA application and assessment process by clicking here.

Appointments and Location

How long will I have to wait for an appointment?

Our auditing body sets Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for various parts of the assessment process. Accredited centres are obliged to offer an appointment within 15 working days or refer you to an alternative centre. Even during the busiest periods, CLASS has 100% compliance with this KPI. Check the current ‘waiting time’ in the left hand column on any page of our website. It’s usually within a couple of days and we can sometimes even offer appointments on the same day!

How do I find you?

You can find full details of how to get to CLASS, including public transport links and a map on our location page.

Are there parking facilities nearby?

Parking in central London can be difficult and expensive. Before making the decision to drive to CLASS, you should contact your funding body. It will normally pay for any travel expenses to and from your needs assessment, and it may be willing to cover the cost of a taxi to and from CLASS if your disability means that you cannot use public transport.

If you do decide to drive to your assessment, there are some metered car parking spaces in the surrounding streets as well as Blue Badge bays; you can find more details on the Westminster City Council website. The nearest car park is located in Clipstone Mews.

Our Chiswick centre has a free car park and our Harrow centre has a car park which costs £2.50 for a 3 hour stay.

Are you the Centre which was located at 72 Great Portland Street?

YES! We moved from 72 Great Portland Street to our new air-conditioned offices in June 2013. We can now offer the same great service in much nicer surroundings.

Can you assess me at home or at my University?

We can travel to you if, because of your disability, you cannot travel into central London. Just call 0800 0153158 and explain the need for a home assessment. With the agreement of your funding body, our admin team will contact suitably qualified assessors to see whether anyone can visit you at your home or University.

The assessor will bring some assistive technology to the home assessment. However, some equipment – particularly large items, such as ergonomic furniture – can only be tested on CLASS’ premises.

Evidence and Approval Letters

What do I need to bring with me?

Ideally you will have emailed the necessary documentation to us before you attend your appointment. However, if you haven’t, to carry out a needs assessment, we need to see two documents:

  • evidence of your disability;
  • a letter from your funding body confirming that you are eligible for DSA and have been authorised to have an assessment of needs or a review of needs.

We also need a completed Pre-Assessment Form, which will have been emailed to you when you booked your appointment. In the case of a review assessment, you will have been sent and returned a Pre-Review Form as part of the booking process.

Evidence of your disability

We can only carry out a DSA needs assessment if you provide evidence of your disability. This could be a medical report, doctor’s letter or, in the case of a specific learning difficulty, an educational psychologist’s report.

This will usually be a copy of the same evidence you submitted to your funding body when applying for DSA. We are a completely separate organisation to your funding body, so don’t have access to anything you have sent them. When you book your assessment you will be asked to complete a Pre-Assessment Form (PAF) which we will email to you. When you email the completed form, you should also attach a copy of your medical evidence and needs assessment approval letter (see below).

If you have any questions about your evidence, call us before your assessment date on Freephone 0800 0153158, or contact us.

Letter of eligibility

You should have received a letter from your funding body which confirms that you are eligible for DSA and that you may proceed to the next stage of the DSA process, booking an appointment with an assessment centre. If you haven’t already emailed a copy to us you should bring this letter with you to your needs assessment, as it demonstrates that your funding body has agreed to finance your DSA recommendations.

If you have had a DSA Needs Assessment before, the letter may authorise a funded or non-funded review, rather than a full assessment. It is essential that you make this clear at the time of booking. See ‘What does the assessment fee cover’, below.

If you have any questions about this letter, call us before your assessment date on Freephone 0800 0153158, or use our online enquiry form to send us an email.

Assessment and Report

What is the difference between a diagnostic assessment and an assessment of needs?

A diagnostic assessment provides evidence of a specific learning difficulty (SpLD). This is the document you need to send to your funding body as evidence of your disability.  It usually takes the form of an educational psychologist’s report, and includes the diagnosis of dyslexia or other SpLD. Students are responsible for the cost of obtaining this evidence, though many Higher Education Providers (HEPs) have schemes in place to assist with these costs. Contact your Disability Adviser at your institution to find out what help your HEP offers.

A needs assessment is not intended to provide a diagnosis, as it relies on the evidence already provided by you.  A needs assessment takes place at an assessment centre such as CLASS, and involves an informal discussion with a DSA needs assessor.  The aim is to identify strategies to help you compensate for the effects of your disability in higher education and to justify funding from the DSA for strategies which incur a cost and are not provided as a ‘reasonable adjustment’ by your HEP.

Will CLASS assess my disability?

Yes. As one of the largest assessment centres in the country, CLASS has a team of assessors and up to date facilities to assess all disabilities. These include:

  • Asperger’s, autism, and mental health – CLASS employs assessors with experience of counselling and mental health issues, including professional counsellors and mentors.
  • Hearing impairment (HI) – CLASS will ensure that a BSL interpreter will be on site for assessments if necessary, and our full-time technology consultant ensures that CLASS stays up to date with current developments. Our administrators are experienced at using the Text Relay Service. However, please let us know whenever you require specialised assistance, and we can ensure it is in place for you.
  • Multiple disabilities – many of our assessors are trained in more than one area of expertise, enabling them to assess students with multiple disabilities. In very complex cases, we can arrange for two assessors to be present, if necessary, to ensure that all aspects of your disability are taken into account.
  • Physical disability and mobility problems – CLASS is wheelchair-accessible, and our staff are happy to provide additional mobility support as required (such as assistance into and out of vehicles). In addition to assistive technology, a wide range of ergonomic furniture, including orthopaedic chairs, is available for testing.
  • Specific learning difficulties – all of our assessment rooms are fully equipped with assistive technology designed for students with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, etc). Our assessors include dyslexia tutors and other specialists in specific learning needs.
  • Unseen disability – some disabilities are invisible to the eye, but can have a profound impact on quality of life. CLASS assessors are experienced in assessing the difficulties associated with unseen disabilities and long-term illness, including HIV/AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, cancer, connective tissue disease, and repetitive strain injuries.
  • Visual impairment (VI) – at CLASS we have a room specially equipped with a wide range of technology to assist visually impaired students. Our staff include a specialist VI assessor. All materials, including DSA Needs Assessment Reports, can be supplied in alternative formats, including large font, pdf and audio, and our staff can escort you to and from public transport if requested.
  • None of the above? – You cannot categorise disabilities and we understand that sometimes people can be uncomfortable talking to strangers about the effects of their disability. Rest assured that our friendly admin team and assessors are here to help you and anything you submit or tell us is always treated confidentially. You can call to talk to a member of the CLASS staff in absolute confidence, by calling Freephone 0800 0153158, or use our online enquiry form to send us an email.

What happens during a DSA needs assessment?

The assessment is carried out by a DSA needs assessor who has experience of your area of disability or specific learning difficulty, and who can help identify disability-related needs and recommend compensatory strategies. The assessment is not a test; it is a relaxed, informal meeting, giving you the chance to discuss your needs with an expert and try out possible solutions. Your assessor can provide a demonstration of any software that may be recommended for you.

After the assessment, the assessor will produce a report explaining their findings.  The report undergoes quality assurance and proof reading by CLASS’ QA team before being sent to you, your funding body and, if you have requested it, to your disability officer at university.  Follow up queries and correspondence are handled by your assessor or by the QA/Admin team.

Is there a fee for the needs assessment?

In common with all Needs Assessment Centres, CLASS will charge a fee to undertake your assessment, which will be taken from the general allowance part of your DSA. Our fee is £660 in total, with no VAT chargeable. You will not be personally charged for the assessment. Fees are paid by your Funding Body. As an approved assessment centre, we have an arrangement to invoice your funding body directly.

What does the assessment fee cover?

In line with the current Quality Audit Framework, the fully inclusive assessment fee will cover most additional work required, for a duration of five years from your assessment date, where:

  • The additional needs relate to the condition(s) for which you were originally assessed
  • The additional needs relate to a change of course or progression to a taught postgraduate course
  • The additional needs relate to a change of Higher Education Provider (HEP).

This includes liaising with your funding body, equipment supplier, HEP or other stakeholder, for the purposes of review of your support needs.

In other circumstances a funded review may be approved. E.g. A new condition requiring substantial additional support; progression to PGCE / Research based PG course; more than five years have passed since your original assessment; or there has been more than a two year gap in study.

How do assessors make recommendations?

Recommendations are made based on your disability-related needs, and these will differ for every student.  For this reason, CLASS does not provide standard ‘shopping lists’ for each category of disability.  The aim of your assessment is to identify your individual, unique needs, taking into account   such factors as medical evidence, personal experience, choice of institution, and the nature of your course and the way in which you study.  Our assessors cannot recommend equipment or support purely based on course-related need, or personal convenience.

How long will an assessment take?

Most needs assessments are completed within two hours, although complex cases may take longer.  Assessments are tightly scheduled, so it is important that you arrive on time; if you are more than 30 minutes late it is unlikely your assessor will be able to see you.

After the assessment

Where’s my DSA Needs Assessment Report?

After your assessment, the assessor will produce a detailed report setting out your needs and recommending strategies.  This report is quality assured and proofread by our admin team before it is sent to you and your funding body, within 10 working days of your assessment (Key Performance Indicator) – unless you have requested to see a draft copy first.

Sometimes your assessor may ask you to provide additional information in order to complete the report.  The report will not be sent to your funding body until this information is received.

If you want to track the progress of your report, call us on Freephone 0800 0153158, or use our online enquiry form to send us an email.  However, it would be helpful if you could wait at least 10 working days before contacting us to check on progress.

What if I don’t agree with the assessor’s recommendations?

When you attended your needs assessment you will have signed a form to indicate that you and the assessor had agreed on the recommendations that would be detailed in the report.  If you think there’s been a mistake or if new information has come to light, call us straight away on Freephone 0800 0153158, or use our online enquiry form to send us an email.  In the subject line, please put the name of the assessor and, if available, the assessment reference number (this takes the form of two letters and six or seven digits, e.g. MC-1516-300 or AA-1415-071).

The admin team will deal with your query as quickly as possible, forwarding it to the relevant assessor if appropriate.  However, CLASS cannot alter a recommendation on the basis of course-related need, personal convenience, or personal preference.

Can I upgrade the recommended equipment or change a PC to an Apple Mac?

So long as the changes don’t compromise the original purpose of the recommendations and offer equivalent support, you are free to negotiate the changes with the approved supplier. However, you will have to pay any difference in cost yourself. You cannot decline elements of support and use the funding towards something else. For example, if you decide you don’t want a recommended item, you can’t put the funding for it towards a more expensive computer. The funding will simply be deducted from the total available.

Where’s my stuff?

Once your funding body has received a copy of the DSA Needs Assessment Report, it has to decide whether to approve our recommendations. Most funding bodies will send or email you a letter telling you which supplier’s quotation they have approved.  You will need to contact the supplier and place your order.  The supplier will need to see a copy of the authorisation letter before they supply the equipment, and the funding body will pay the supplier directly.  You will need to provide the supplier with a copy of your letter.

The NHS will pay money directly into your bank account, in which case you will need to order and pay for the equipment and /or services yourself. However, note that from the 17/18 academic year, some courses previously funded by the NHS are being administered by SFE. Research councils funding postgraduate studies will often fund support through your institution, so you will need to liaise with the Disability Officer responsible in your institution.

Supplier’s contact details can be found in section E on the ‘Suppliers Details’ page of your report. During busy periods, both funding bodies and suppliers can experience delays, so it is best to allow extra time for this part of the process. Your supplier will be able to let you know how long it is likely to take for them to deliver your equipment.  You can check with them when you place your order.

Your funding body should let you know if they have not approved any of the recommendations made in your assessment. Occasionally your funding body may request further clarification from your assessor.  In this case, please call us on Freephone 0800 015 3158, or use our online enquiry form to send us an email.  If emailing, please put the name of your assessor in the subject line and, if possible, your assessment reference number (this takes the form of two letters and six or seven digits, eg AB-1617-071). These details are available on the front page of your Report.

Can I get equipment before my course starts?

The Department for Education (DfE) recommends that SFE could, in some cases, consider purchasing equipment before a student’s course starts. Here’s an extract from the current guidance (16/17):

“A DSAs study needs assessment may be provided before a student has started their course to ensure that any equipment or other support they need can be arranged and delivered for the beginning of term. In some cases it may be appropriate to supply DSAs-funded equipment before the start of term where training on the equipment is necessary before the student starts their course. However, if the student subsequently does not start the course, this will constitute an overpayment for the purposes of regulation 119 (full-time students), regulation 135 (full-time distance learning students) regulation 156 (part-time students) and regulation 168 (postgraduate students).”

“SFE can accept the return of the equipment to the supplier, a monetary repayment or a combination of both against the overpayment. For example, where the student has received two items of equipment through DSAs and it is possible to return one item to the supplier and secure a full refund but it is not possible to return the other item, the student should only have to pay for the second item of equipment. It should be clearly explained to students who are supplied with equipment before the start of their course that they may be liable for the cost of the equipment if they do not subsequently begin the course.”

What if I change my course?

You will need to contact your funding body to see whether the change of course affects your eligibility to student finance and the DSA.  If your funding/DSA can be transferred to the new course CLASS can continue to support you.  If your needs change as a result, you may need a review. See ‘What does the assessment fee cover?’ above.  To discuss this, call us on 0800 015 3158, or use our online enquiry form to send us an email.

Anything else

How did CLASS start?

David Laycock MBE, started CLASS in 1984, at the University of Westminster.  Originally, we were called the Computer Centre for People with Disabilities (CCPD).  The aim, as it still is, was to make assistive technology widely available to disabled students in higher education.

CCPD worked alongside occupational therapists, speech therapists and physiotherapists etc to explore the uses of assistive technology for a range of disabilities.  By doing this, we added to own expertise, which is something that CLASS, continues to do to this day, always motivated to provide the best service to our students.

In 2005, as the DSA continued to grow further still, we changed our name to CLASS (Central London Assessment Services) and increased our facilities, enabling us to see even more students, ensuring a greater capacity during busy periods.

Assessments are currently carried out on University of Westminster premises at: 101 New Cavendish Street W1W 6XH; Harrow HA1 3TP; and Chiswick W4 3AN.

What if my question isn’t on this page?

Call CLASS on Freephone 0800 015 3158, or use our online enquiry form to send us an email. The admin team will endeavour to answer your question. If we can’t, we’ll find somebody within CLASS who can!

Want a call back?

If you have difficulty contacting us or would like us to call you, please email: dsa@westminster.ac.uk with your details.

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