National Association of Disability Practitioners

Sept 2021: 20th Anniversary of SENDA - Pat Keaveney

September 07, 2021 Lynn Wilson Season 3 Episode 3
National Association of Disability Practitioners
Sept 2021: 20th Anniversary of SENDA - Pat Keaveney
Chapters
National Association of Disability Practitioners
Sept 2021: 20th Anniversary of SENDA - Pat Keaveney
Sep 07, 2021 Season 3 Episode 3
Lynn Wilson

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA) established legal rights for disabled students in pre- and post-16 education.

The Act introduced the right for disabled students not to be discriminated against in education, training and any services provided wholly or mainly for students, and for those enrolled on courses provided by ‘responsible bodies’, including further and higher education institutions and sixth form colleges.

Student services covered by the Act included a wide range of educational and non-educational services, such as field trips, examinations and assessments, short courses, arrangements for work placements and libraries and learning resources.

This podcast features Jo Wrigley in conversation with Pat Keaveney. and forms part of the NADP celebrations for the 20th anniversary of SENDA. Pat is dyslexic and studied at school and university pre-SENDA and during its inception. Talking with Jo Wrigley, he describes his experiences at school and university during this important period of time. 

Show Notes Transcript

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA) established legal rights for disabled students in pre- and post-16 education.

The Act introduced the right for disabled students not to be discriminated against in education, training and any services provided wholly or mainly for students, and for those enrolled on courses provided by ‘responsible bodies’, including further and higher education institutions and sixth form colleges.

Student services covered by the Act included a wide range of educational and non-educational services, such as field trips, examinations and assessments, short courses, arrangements for work placements and libraries and learning resources.

This podcast features Jo Wrigley in conversation with Pat Keaveney. and forms part of the NADP celebrations for the 20th anniversary of SENDA. Pat is dyslexic and studied at school and university pre-SENDA and during its inception. Talking with Jo Wrigley, he describes his experiences at school and university during this important period of time. 

An introductory podcast which is part of the NADP Panel Webinar held on 15th September 2021

Jo Wrigley in conversation with Pat Keaveney

Jo: So, welcome to our NADP Podcast. Hi Pat and thank you for agreeing to take part in this podcast for the 20th anniversary of the SENDA legislation. As someone who has experienced studying pre-SENDAs introduction, we were really interested in exploring what your personal and educational experiences were at this time, and your experiences post SENDA. So, can you tell me a little bit about your early experiences in education?

Pat: Yeah, I think, first of all it's probably worth telling you a little bit about my disability in terms of, I'm significantly dyslexic and I don't think there's been a day of my life when dyslexia hasn't impacted on my education or my work and has been a major issue with my life. The interesting thing was dyslexia was never mentioned when I was at school and that isn't surprising because when I left school in 1977, which was 10 years to the day more or less where the government actually recognized dyslexia. While I was at school, there were clearly various issues that the educational establishment were trying to get their head around with me. I mean, my parents came in and they had discussions, and there was talk about sending me to a special school because of my problems with my English and my writing but this was a school for students with complex needs, it wasn't mentioned, dyslexia. They didn't look at dyslexia or anything like that. 

I then had a kind of a series of times when I seemed to boomerang between being in the remedial class, where everybody in the remedial class was struggling to read anything, to being in the top set. Because, when they got me in the remedial class, I remember sitting in the back in one of the remedial classes, and I was reading Lord of the Rings and everybody else was reading the Janet and John books in the front with the teacher, looking at some clay and I didn't fit in with that. 

So, they then moved me up to the first set because it was a streaming school. And so, then, I was bounced backwards and forwards as people tried to work out what to do with me and that effectively meant that at the age of 15, I'd left school without any qualifications. 

People accepted I wasn’t unintelligent, unskilled and stuff, but nobody dealt with the fact that I was dyslexic, so when it came to the exams, of course, I failed all my exams, and at the age of 15 I went off. 

What they decided was it would be really good if I got myself a trade, and I became a gas fitter with British Gas. And this is the thing that I always find really frustrating and shout at the TV when I hear people talking about, 

“Oh well he's dyslexic or just got a special educational need, so we'll get them a trade”. 

I wasn't a good gas fitter. I’m slightly dyspraxic, I have a really poor memory, so I still remember struggling being a gasfitter. I remember leaving all my tools beneath floorboards at different people's houses because I couldn't remember where I put my tools and my dyspraxia meant that sometimes I was struggling to repair them. 

So, I did a trade because everybody wanted to slot me with a trade. In later life when I was given an education, when I was given a chance, I was far better in the other jobs I went to do which used my special skills as dyslexic, rather than just saying, “Oh, give him a trade” but it does frustrate me when I hear people always say, 

“Oh well if they’re dyslexic or struggling with education, let's get them into trade, let's not waste their time with education,” 

because with the right education, it did make a difference.

Jo: So, can you tell me a little bit about your diagnosis and why you decided to go down the route of getting some evidence related to a dyslexia diagnosis? 

Pat: Yeah, I was quite a bit of an activist when I was in my 30s, I traveled a lot, and was interested in politics and trade unions and stuff like that, and I kind of worked out myself, that I was dyslexic. I'd read the various publications. 

It was funny, I use to like to read The Guardian, but I couldn't read it. I liked the kind of the philosophy that was in The Guardian, but I really struggled because the reading age was too high and I was really struggling with The Guardian, and things like that, were the indicators to me that I was dyslexic. 

When I'd gone into work, my education had been so poor, and the lack of support being given to me was so poor, I couldn't write a cheque out. I had a bank account, and I used to go and get my parents to actually write the cheques for me, and then I’d go and sign it in front of the cashier. So I was making money, but I wasn't able to write the cheques. 

Even having a trade job, so, the company used to complain that they couldn't read my writing when they used to do my worksheets. So, I was in a real mess when I first left school, and gradually, in the end, I paid to get a tutor to come in and help me with my English, to try and improve my English. I remember I was earning £26 a week as a gas engineer, and I was paying £6 myself for a tutor to come in and give me some basic lessons to improve my English. 

But I then realised, as I got to my mid 30s, that actually, I was dyslexic. It was fairly obvious to anybody who would look at me that I was dyslexic. And then what I did was I contacted… I was working for the Civil Service then, in the regulator. I spoke to the Civil Service and asked them if they would do an assessment. They arranged for an assessment to be made for me, which identified me clearly as dyslexic. I don’t think there was ever a doubt in my mind and there certainly wasn't any doubt in the mind of the assessor. And then, at that stage I went off and I did a B-Tech, which I found very, very easy. I got very little support, but the B-Tech was easy enough so that in computing I managed. 

I then decided that what I wanted to do was go off to university and get a degree. And what actually happened then was I applied for the course, and managed to get onto the course, and I did the first year and I went into the college. Because the course was classed as a four-year degree, and you were only doing nine hours a week teaching. It was actually classed as a part time degree. And the part time degree meant I didn't qualify for any support, I didn’t qualify for Disabled Students Allowance, so I actually started the course without any support. 

There was no disability officer in the university. I didn't qualify for DSA. I had no extra learning support. So, I went in for the first year, and basically within a month or so couple of months, I really just couldn't manage. I struggled completely with the course I couldn't keep up with what was going on, and the whole thing overpowered me a little bit. And so, I asked, could I defer, and could have another go next year with an understanding of what was going to hit me next year. 

I took the books away and I thought. ‘I'm going to sit down and read all the books so that I'm coming in’, and I did do that. When I came in the next year, I'd read all the books and taught myself as much as I could but also, it was quite disheartening to me as an individual and I know afterwards I had to go to the GP because I was feeling really low. If anything, it did more damage to my confidence than help it and it was a contribution to a number of issues. 

So, I then went back a year later and had another go at it. Again, I wasn't entitled to support, there was no disability officer, there was nobody there to support me, I was more or less by myself. And there’s couple of tricks I've learnt. One was, I made friends fast. I went to the bar, I did every single thing you're not supposed to do, I went to the bar and made friends and had drinks with people and stuff like that. So that meant throughout the year, the other students in the course were a wonderful support mechanism for me. I used to write my notes… I couldn't read my notes afterwards. It was like it was pointless. I don’t know why. I had no computer so it was handwritten notes and I'd have this scribbled stuff and I’d look at it and go “No” but lots of people would photocopy their notes and give them to me. So, it meant that I was I was beginning to get the stuff and if I was struggling on anything, people would help me. So, the people on the course, were really good and really helpful, and obviously the preparation I’d done in terms of reading the books and all that kind of thing in the year ahead was really good. So, I managed to get through the first year, and I got through, but I failed one of the big units, and I remember at the time reading through the books about all the rules and regulations which worked out how many units I could fail in a year and still carry on with the course, I'd gone through everything like that. 

The following year was significantly better because we had a… I don’t know what her teaching classification was… who was on a training course in terms of supporting people with dyslexia. and she had to do so many free units in order to be able to do a course. She volunteered to support me over the year. And to say it was a life changing support was an underestimation of it, because suddenly then I was being given the support that I needed. 

You know, because one of the problems was that I was living by myself at the time, there was nobody else in the house who could help me with my spelling or grammar or anything like that, so I was very much alone in this university experience. So, having this person I could go back to, and I could get support from and stuff, was really life changing, and made a big difference to how I'm went forward. 

I think it was that also, that a disability officer came into the university. And again, I had somebody on my side at last. It was such a help to know that I didn't have to go and fight every battle myself. I remember the first year going into one of the courses, and one of the lecturers there had handwritten notes, and he'd handwritten them out in black pen, but he'd been photocopying them for about 13 years. So, it was photocopies of photocopies of photocopies, and I struggle to read at the best of time. So when I've got these handwritten notes which I can't actually read, I went up to him and said, 

“Can I have typed notes?” 

and he told me, 

“No! You've come onto a degree course you've got to work to this level, they're the notes and you take them”. 

And it was interesting because them kind of battles which I had. I mean as soon as I wanted to record some of the lecturers’ lectures and they wouldn’t let me do it. They had PowerPoint presentations they used and I would ask could I have copies, and was told no, it's our copyright we keep them. So it was a very different situation. I was not supported at all at that stage, and I think that probably the two things that I picked up was, was both the disability officer would give me… would ensure that I was supported by the college and the Disabled Students Allowance very clearly give me the resources in order to be able to do the educational needs that I wanted to do.

Jo: So, what support did you get through DSA funding then? Was there technology support? Did you receive some funding for one-to-one support? And what difference did that make to your experience?

Pat: I couldn't believe it when I got it. I remember doing my DSA assessment and being really amazed because I went there and I went, ready for battle. I’d been doing it at college, and I've been used to having to fight for every single thing I got. And I went in there with a list of things that I wanted, and it was more or less within about two minutes they’d gone well past the list of things I wanted and were moving on to things I never even considered, I mean they were giving me a computer with various different software on which was Dragon and specialist software for dyslexia and mind maps and all the usual stuff. And I hadn’t expected all that to come, I was really amazed when it was given to me. 

But also, I was given training on how to use it, which was you know, again, I wasn't utilizing a lot of the stuff because I wasn't trained on how to how to utilize it and stuff like that. But then I was also given funding so I could keep the support assistant who I'd had in the previous year, who was then qualified now. So, I could keep her on for the rest of the degree which again was a life changing situation. And I still remember… I do remember coming out the assessment and being just amazed on what they’d given me. And if anybody who thinks it's just a luxury, that made the difference to my life because that meant that while before I was looking at how many units I could fail, how many years it would take for me to complete the degree. I completed the degree in the four years specified, I only failed the one unit, which was in the first year when I wasn't given any support, and I came out with a very respectable two one, and that comes down to the extra support I was given. The support that was given by the Disability Office, the support that was given by Disabled Students Allowance, etc. And they were life changing.

Jo: And so, following your degree then, that success, accessing that funding, developing those skills and strategies and having access to and using some of that technology. Can you tell me about your experiences following completion of your degree, and what your employment or career trajectory was?

Pat: The Disability Officer at the university, Matt, was so wonderful in terms of supporting me and getting me through. He gave me the confidence to articulate what I wanted, and to learn to say, 

“No I need a copy of the notes”, 

“No I need these retyping up so I can actually read them”, 

“No I need extra time in the exams, and I need a special place where I can work quietly in order to do that”. 

Without him it wouldn't have made the difference, and that made a difference in later life because it made me a more assertive individual who in later working life, was able to say, in a working environment, 

“No, I need special reasonable adjustments, I need a computer with specialist software on, I need you to give me extra time to do that particular task”,

and that was invaluable. Not just in education, and that's what I think people often miss out on when they look at education, is that reasonable adjustments that are made in education, basically go through working life, and if you're not taught to ask for them in education, if you're not taught to expect them in education, you wouldn't expect them in working life. 

So when managers would say, 

“Oh well I don't know whether we can do that.” 

“Well you’ve got to do that. That's actually part of the Equality Act, and you need to be able to do that and you need to give me a special computer and you need to put specialist software on it, and you need to give me extra time.”

That was stuff which Mark taught me to ask for when I was at university. So that’s one thing worth saying. 

The other thing worth saying is that in terms of the DSA, Disabled Students Allowance, was… Prior to that, I was trying to manage my disability on as little of funding as possible. I had very little, I didn't have a lot of funds, so I was trying to work out how I could minimize what I needed to spend what the extra spending was. I couldn't afford to get a decent computer, I couldn't afford to get Dragon Dictate, which at that stage was very expensive, it wasn't cheap, I couldn't afford Word Smiths and things that at the time there were again really expensive pieces of software, and suddenly all these things were available to me. I could afford a digital tape recorder which was wonderful, and also it meant when I was talking to people in the classes they couldn't then say well, they used to say to me, 

“Well you can't record my lessons” 

and I said, 

“Well, you've given me a digital tape recorder, why can't I record the lessons?” 

And it still amazes me to this day that people think you can't record lessons and you can't record classes. 

So, the Disabled Students Allowance, again, made me stop thinking on the cheap, stop thinking what was the basic package I could get and realizing that actually I should be given adequate support. And this meant I was able to contribute a lot to society in the years after my education, which I wouldn't have been able to do if I had not been given that support, I might have still been struggling in in the manual trade, which I wouldn’t have been good at.

Jo: So, I believe that you were one of the first disability advisors at Goldsmiths. Could you tell me a little bit more about that, Patrick?

Pat: Yeah, I mean I was so motivated by the job that Mark had done at university that I wanted to do the same, and unfortunately, I didn't last as long as Mark, because I went on to other jobs. But I did set up the disability officer at Goldsmiths University, and it was wonderful to see the students coming in. Again they've not been given the support, the students’ support was very good in the university, but they're not under a specific disability officer, and it was really good. 

The stuff I found really interesting was the fights with the academic staff in the university, and it just amazed me that in this day and age, people seemed to think that it was up to them whether they made reasonable adjustments. I still remember talking to a lecturer in a journalism course, who basically had a rule that she didn't allow ‘dyslexics’ onto her course. And when I challenged her on this she said, well she writes for The Guardian and there's no way the Guardian would allow ‘dyslexics’ to be employed by them. I pointed out to them that they would be prosecuted for breach of the Disability Discrimination Act, as it was at that stage, if they didn't look at reasonable adjustments and they didn't offer the support that's needed. But still, this individual was very convinced that, you know, you're just preparing people for problems they’re going to have in later life and dyslexics can't be journalists, which we all know… there's so many journalists who are dyslexic, so many writers who are dyslexic. It's a myth, but this person was so adamant; they were going to stand their ground. 

The bit I think I enjoyed a little bit was going in and doing presentations to the different teams, and actually making it clear that this wasn't their call. They couldn’t decide what reasonable adjustments were made. They had to justify their reasonable adjustments. It still does amaze me today. I've come across it a few times, but there are still individuals who think that it's the decision of the individual, what reasonable adjustments can be made, and they don't need any justification for that position. I accept that there can be a situation where you decide that it’s not reasonable, and it's an unfair adjustment, but you have a justification for that. You can't just simply say, 

“Well, I don't think so, I'm in charge.” 

But I loved the support we offered to the students. I was really disappointed, when I got offered another job in the charity sector supporting disabled individuals and I wanted to take that on, but it wasn't because I didn't appreciate the importance of the disability officer of the university, it was a really rewarding job and a very happy time in my life.

Jo: So Pat, can you tell me a little bit more about your experiences within your career?

Patrick: Yeah, I mean my education. It always amazed me when I used to talk to other people who'd gone to university and used to say, 

“Oh university didn't make any difference to me.” 

And university will change my life. It was life changing it may be because of my disability and the support I received, and my life was so much happier after university. I always felt fulfilled. 

We often talk about in the dyslexic field, about special talents and their “superpowers” and stuff like that. And it allowed me to start utilizing some of my special talents and my “superpowers”, which was not being a gas fitter. There's nothing wrong. I've got some good friends who are gas fitters, there's nothing wrong with being a gas fitter but that wasn't my thing I wanted to do. That wasn't the thing I was good at. And by opening that door, it meant that I could then go into management and manage people. I had the ability to look at the big picture to be able to see issues that other people wouldn't be able to see. And as I said before, what it meant was, everything I've been given, all the support I've been given in university, meant that I knew how to utilize that support in a workplace environment. So I wasn't just benefitting from my subjects/ my degree; I was also benefiting from everything I'd learned in university about the reasonable adjustments, about the amount of support you need, and I was using them in a productive way which made me a productive member of society, but also made me a happy person. I was much happier after my degree than before my degree, because that did utilize… I felt like it was fulfilling my potential at that stage rather than struggling. 

But I have to say, there wasn't one day in my life when dyslexia didn't impact me, and this is the bit that I think people don't quite understand. They almost feel that dyslexia is one of the disabilities which doesn't impact too much. It does. There isn’t a day in my life when it doesn't impact. I used to work for an organisation where my manager was blind and often when we went into meetings, my manager would have to support me more than I would have to support her. Because the disability was more impacting me than it was impacting her in the actual meeting, and people don't quite realise but that made a big difference to me, and I developed on it, you know. Even things like, I did lots of workplace training and everything when I got into the workplace, but again I knew what reasonable adjustments I needed in place. I knew to actually say to people, “

You've got to make these reasonable adjustments.” 

I wish I had the confidence to sit in meetings and actually people would be talking very fast, and I'd be saying, 

“Hang on, just slow down, you've lost me”, 

and that confidence which I gained from university and being able to actually say, actually I have got a disability I need you to kind of support me and work with me on that and if you do, I'll give you a lot back. People realised that if they did support me, then I gave them a lot back, but I did need the reasonable adjustments; I did need to be dealt with slightly different, and it meant I had a wonderful career after leaving university, and I wouldn't have managed it without the university, and without the disability officer, and without the disabled students allowance.

Jo: It sounds like in terms of your degree experience, the support that you accessed through the institution and through the DSA support has really been very transformational and it's supported your transferable skills in terms of your confidence to tell employers or to be quite open about the support needs that you particularly have so you can reach your potential in any kind of career or any situation that you have been in. Would you agree?

Patrick: Yeah, very much. I think we see the course that somebody is on, but also part of going to university. Often when you're dealing with the 18-year-olds, and I was older than that, is actually somebody maturing and learning to be more independent, and they learn some of the other skills which are not necessarily related to the course. I have to say, as a disabled student, I learned a whole set of extra skills on top of that. So, I didn't just get the benefit of the degree, I didn’t just get the benefit of the independence. I got the benefit of really somebody looking at working out what support I needed as a disabled student and telling me, 

“Don’t be embarrassed at saying you've got dyslexia”. 

Jo: Yeah, absolutely.

Patrick: And it did. It paid off in a couple of other things. I identified a number of people in a workplace environment who had dyslexia, or other disabilities, and arranged the support for them because I could spot it, and you know often this individual, I had one individual who was dyslexic and, again, went off to university afterwards because I had identified they were dyslexic, and they got the support. They were struggling in work, and I got them the support to work well in work, and then they went off to university because they were doing so well, and that was, again, it was a knock-on effect of the stuff I’d learnt at university. So it has trickled down as well.

Jo: Absolutely and you’ve made a positive impact on the lives of those around you in terms of you being a manager and supporting other people within that environment. So, I believe that your daughter is going to attend university in the 22/23 academic year, Patrick. In your opinion, how do the universities and support that is available now compare with the universities and support when you were studying?

Patrick: They are better. It's definitely an improvement from, say, when I first went. It feels like to me what's actually happened is when I first went to school, it was almost non-existent support, it was basically you're by yourself, and so on. It then felt like when I went to university, at the beginning, there was an acknowledgement of my degree and understanding of some standard of my disability, but there was no support and then as we got further on in the degree, I got the support and so on. It feels like there is, now when she does university, there is an indication that she should get support, that she has got a disability, and so on. But there still isn't an understanding of the fact that it's her right to get all this support, and I think rights are probably the most important thing. It amazes me, I look back at the Equality Act and the Equality Act on discrimination and one of the changes is that the Disability Discrimination Act has moved into the Equality Act. If I was to go to an institution, and actually to say, 

“You're discriminating me because of race,” 

the institution would immediately have a big investigation and take this issue very seriously because it's important and quite rightly so. 

If I was to go and say, 

“You're discriminating against me because of my gender,” 

then exactly the same thing would happen. Or because of my sexual orientation, exactly the same thing will happen. But if I was to go to an organisation or institution and say, 

“You're discriminating against me because of my disability,” they would almost, “Well we’re giving you some support, what's your problem?” 

There isn’t a view that actually there is a legal responsibility and to be discriminating against somebody because of their disability is a very serious matter, particularly if you're using public funds to do it. It's not something you've got the right to decide, we do want to discriminate. Oh no we can't. You shouldn't be discriminating against anybody full stop. And whether it's disability or not, they shouldn't be discriminated against. And I think that's the big thing. I see missing at the moment is the reason that the equality rights that there should be for people with disability. 

My daughter is probably more significant, well she's definitely more significantly disabled than me. When she was aged only 15, she was doing GCSEs, and had various bad headaches during doing her GCSEs. She completed most of them, bar about two and it was identified towards the end that she had a large malignant brain tumour about the size of an orange, so it was a really big brain tumour. So, she then had to go through 24 hours of brain surgery, she then had to have six weeks of daily radiotherapy to the brain and chemotherapy for nearly a year and that's left her significantly disabled. She's in a wheelchair, she has seizures, she has chronic sickness, and she's got a processing speed of the bottom second percentile. But she's an intelligent girl who wants to get on with her life as soon as possible, and it’s amazing how often what people will do now is they will look at her and they will think, 

“Yes, let's put a wheelchair ramp in for her,” 

“Yes, let's make sure she's not sick”. 

But the reasonable adjustments in terms of education are often missed out because they're seen as the soft adjustments. I recently tried to get her reasonable adjustments in terms of A-level exams. When they were talking about it, it was recommended by the hospital, it was in the educational health care plan, and the exam board said, without any evidence backing, 

“No, we think that's too many reasonable adjustments for the exams”.

And it just felt, it was wrong for somebody… I don't mind if somebody had come back and said, “We've done an assessment and based on this…” but we didn't, we just got one line which was “No”. And you know we've got all these reports and everything that have been written down, medical reports and everything, and all that was ignored. And even now when we're looking at applying to universities, one of the things my daughter has had is, because of course she's gone through significant health support and significant rehabilitation, she spends quite a bit of time in gyms and stuff with physios/physio terrorists, as she calls them, and so as we saw, the Marsden Hospital actually identified that in fact she should only do two A-levels, not the three A levels. And then when I look at applying for universities, they're all saying, 

“But we need three A levels. It’s said up in the prospectus that we need three A-levels, and she'd have to go back and do another year”. 

Now she's already missed one year because she was in hospital for one year. So, the idea she then has to do another year, and what always confused me was, it was almost they were saying any A-level will do. So, she then could go and do art for a year, just so that she could come back in and the idea being that she couldn't do her degree based on two very good maths and Chemistry A-levels, which were hard A-levels to get, was incredible. But it was amazing how many universities first response was 

“No, you can't do it, we have it in our prospectus, you have to do three, and if we allowed you in, we will be disadvantaging the other students.” 

You’re thinking, 

“No you wouldn’t, nobody would want to have gone through what my daughter has gone through. She's significantly disadvantaged and if she can get two good A-levels with what she's dealing with at the moment, then she's adequate to go on the course. She's outperformed a lot of people who are getting three good A-levels.” 

And again it comes down to the fact that people presumed she had no rights. And so, if I could come back to one thing now, you've got to keep SENDA in place, you've got to keep the Disabled Students Allowance in place, you've got to keep the disability officers in place, but also universities, educational establishments, have got to realise that disabled students have got legal rights. It's not a right that can be taken away with them just at the whim of an individual saying, “I don't want to do that,” it's a right which has got to be there too. 

One of the things that I will say, with the DSA, which I think is worth saying as we look at now, because I've heard talk that people are looking at how we allocate the DSA. The best thing about DSA and Employment Support Allowance, was they followed me. They didn't follow the institution, they didn't follow the workplace, they didn't go into this pot of money which is stuck in someone's bank account. I had that money so when I wanted support I could get support, when I wanted a computer with the right software in, I could get said computer. If the support I'd been given wasn't adequate, then I would go and find my support somewhere else. 

So, I was getting very good support in DSA but in employment support allowance on a few times, the support I was given from ESA wasn't adequate. So, I went back to them and said, 

“I'm sorry I've got this funding here but I'm not paying for that. That's not value for money, that's not what I want,” 

And we were able to find what I want because the money was allocated to it, and I really strongly believe that the money needs to follow the individual, and that's what empowers disabled students to really control their own life.

Jo: And also, that the support is very individualized as well. Do you think that was very important for you? That somebody says, “your particular study skills and strategies related to your particular condition,” and made recommendations that fit along with you in terms of the strategies that would work for you? 

Pat: Yes, but very much the individualisation was important, but I've seen you can get individualisation in school, but when the money doesn't follow them, it's a paper which is put to one side and that's all the support you’re given and you've got very little control over what supports given where. What made DSA really good was having this person sat down and identified that I was entitled to this support, I could then make sure I got it. It was my money. It was my money to spend, and in a way that supported me. And that's very empowering. You know it's really important, because I know there is so much money put into schools, in terms of disability support, but often the money is put into a big pot, and you still have to vie for that money afterwards. And still I've got lots of demands on the resources, so you know, particularly if you're not articulate enough to fight for that money, you might not get it. 

Jo: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Patrick for meeting with me today, and for providing a really interesting insight into personal experiences. I know that I have found our conversation today has been really, interesting, and I'm sure that all of our members that NADP will also. So thank you once again Patrick.

Pat: You're welcome and thank you. As I say the disability officer made such a difference to my life and I know many of us are doing jobs where you don't really see the end results as people go off and become independent in life and so on. But you do make a real difference and you should be proud of the jobs you do.

Jo: Thank you Patrick, thank you.