Disabled cuts put Blunkett in firing line

February 12, 1999

The government found itself embroiled in another row over disabled people this week after it decided to cut disability allowances for older students.

Disability help groups and the National Union of Students said that the decision to axe the disabled students' allowances for over-55s was a slap in the face for older learners who happen to have disabilities, particularly since the decision was taken by education secretary David Blunkett, who is blind.

The government's decision means that disabled people could lose up to Pounds 10,000 a year when DSAs are stopped this autumn. There is also bad news for disabled people aged between 50 and 54. They will only be eligible for DSAs if they can convince the education department that they will get a job after the course.

Andrew Beh, spokesman for Skill, the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities, said: "There were only 183 disabled people aged over 50 in receipt of DSAs last year. It is because there is such a small number that this policy decision is such a nasty slap in the face."

Gordon Dryden, assistant director for education and employment at the Royal National Institute for the Blind, said: "The move is totally counter to the government's claims to support lifelong education."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Employment said that ministers were sympathetic, but that earlier consultations with the NUS did not raise these points. An announcement is expected soon.

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