About the Pennine Lancashire Centre Access (PLAC)

PLAC is based at Blackburn College main campus. PLAC offers assessments for assistive technology and personal support needs for people with a range of disabilities, including specific learning difficulties, physical disability, mental health difficulties, visual and hearing impairments. The assessments lead to recommendations for assistive technology, equipment, study aids, training, specialist strategies and support. This is usually provided to Higher Education students via Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) funding. PLAC also undertakes assessments for students on FE programmes and internal College staff.

Coronavirus update

Pennine Lancashire Access Centre will continue to offer assessments during this difficult time. Assessments will be via phone and online. You can book your assessment via the phone number or email using the details below.

For booking appointments and any queries concerning Assessments of Need contact the Pennine Lancashire access centre:

Telephone: 01254 292 224
Email: info@plac.co.uk
Post: Pennine Lancashire Access Centre
Blackburn College
Harrison Centre

Opening Times:
Monday – Thursday: 9.00 am – 4.30pm
Friday: 9.00 am – 4.00pm

How to find us
View our location map
View our campus ma5

Any questions? Not sure what to do next? Call 01254 292224

What does an Assessment Centre provide?

PLAC provides independent professional advice and guidance, given during an assessment of study or employment needs to a chosen course of study or employment. Assessments are carried out by a Technical Assessor working to nationally agreed guidelines. The purpose of an assessment is to identify study/work aids and strategies required to provide equity of access to a chosen course of study/employment. Most assessments are funded through the Disabled Student Allowance.

What is the Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA)?

The DSA is a government grant for UK students with disabilities/ learning difficulties enrolled on Higher Education, Post Graduate and Open University courses. The award is intended to cover any extra costs or expenses learners may have whilst studying, that arise due to a disability / learning difficulty. ‘Bridging the Gap’ gives full details on how to apply, download at www.direct.gov.uk/studentfinance or order by telephone on 08007319133 . You can get more information about the NHS Bursary Scheme, and the DSAs offered, in the Department of Health’s guide ‘Financial Help for Health Care Students’ . You can get copies by contacting the Department of Health Publications Orderline on 08701 555 455 or from their website at www.dh.gov.uk

How to access the Disabled Student’s Allowance funding?

You should contact your funding body (LEA/NHS/OU), to apply for the DSA. Evidence is required to determine eligibility. This may include an Educational Psychologist’s Report (post 16 years of age) or recent medical evidence outlining the impact of your disability/difficulty, on day to day activities, and in relation to your course of study. The DSA does not cover the cost of obtaining disability evidence / diagnosis. To meet these costs you can apply to your university or college (the disability adviser may be able to help you with this) to see if help is available through the Access to Learning Fund. You can apply for DSA funding by completing the form PN1 (form PR1 if you are a continuing student) or on-line at studentfinancedirect.co.uk Once your LEA has confirmed your eligibility for DSA funding, the next stage is that you will be asked to have an Assessment of Study Needs at an Assessment Centre such as PLAC.

Why do I need to have an assessment?

The assessment will match your particular needs with those of your proposed course. It will also identify support strategies, types of equipment, training you might need to make best use of the equipment, how much it will cost and where to get it from. All recommendations are required to be directly associated with a difficulty you have as a consequence of your disability. Therefore, each assessment is tailored to the individual’s needs. Specific software or hardware can only be included where the disability demands it.

How can I arrange my assessment?

To arrange an assessment, you can contact PLAC using the details provided above, addressing any letters to Dave Parrington. We will send you an application form and ask for evidence of your disability (such as a letter from a medical specialist or GP, or a psychologist’s report, if you are dyslexic) and a course details form to identify how the course is delivered (e.g. lectures, seminars, labs), how many teaching hours are there every week and how are you assessed (e.g. exams, coursework).

On receiving of the requested information we will also send you written confirmation of your assessment appointment, together with a map and directions on how to find us, and an outline of what to expect during your assessment. Alternatively, you can email the completed forms to us, or print them out and post them to us. We will also need you to provide evidence of your disability (as outlined above). When we receive your completed forms and evidence, we will contact you to arrange a convenient time for your assessment.

How you can prepare for the Assessment?

It will be helpful to both you and your assessor that before you attend the appointment, that you take a little time to think about your course of study and the likely impact on you. It is useful to think about how effective your previous study strategies were. Consider things such as receiving help from family, friends, teachers or support tutors, and whether or not any specific examination arrangements that were made for you.

What happens at an Assessment?

The assessment involves no tests, or judgement on your academic ability, it is an opportunity to discuss how your disability/learning difficulty affects your study/work, discussing past experiences and any coping strategies you use.

The assessor will discuss and explore different support options and make recommendations. The assessment will give you a chance to evaluate many of the latest assistive technologies including information and communication technology and/or ergonomic equipment appropriate to your needs. You and the assessor will decide on the most appropriate support to your needs. This will then be documented in the report. Where assistive computer technology is recommended the assessor will usually specify a supplier from an approved supplier list.

On average a DSA assessment takes about 3 hours.

What types of support may be recommended?

Examples of types of support recommended are: one-to-one learning support; note-taker; communicator support workers; mentor; educational support ; assistance for mobility needs; access arrangements for examinations; computer equipment and software; ergonomic equipment; recording/organisational devices.

What happens after the Assessment?

  • After the DSA assessment, the Assessor will write a report outlining your needs and recommended strategies.
  • A draft of the report will be sent to you for approval within 3 weeks. The report will contain recommendations within the scope of the Disabled Students’ Allowance for the consideration of your funding body along with advice for you and your university or college. You will have the opportunity to ask any further questions you may have.
  • Once the report has been agreed by you, a copy will be sent by PLAC to your funding body.
  • The funding body will then write to you outlining how you should proceed to acquire any equipment, and/or support.
  • With your permission, a copy of the report will be sent to the HE Learning Support Co-ordinator /Disability Officer at your Higher Education Institution/Open University.

How long will it be before I receive my equipment?

This depends on your funding body (LEA/NHS/OU), however usually you should know if the report’s recommendations have been approved in approximately 3 – 6 weeks after receipt of your report. Once the Assessment Report has been sent to your funding body, PLAC has no control over this decision or the length of time the decision takes. If you have not heard anything within 3 weeks you should contact the person dealing with your request at your funding body using the contact details on the front of your Assessment Report.

Your funding body may order your equipment direct from the suppliers, and you can expect delivery in a further 4 – 6 weeks. Alternatively, you can instruct PLAC to order the equipment on your behalf or you may receive funding so that you are able to purchase equipment direct. However, it is important that you do not purchase any items until your funding body has given consent.

Why is there an Assessment Fee?

Pennine Lancashire Access Centre will charge the funding body a single assessment fee. This allows for students to contact us at any time during their course with queries that relate to:

• An additional diagnosis during the course for which further medical evidence has been provided.
• Additional needs that a student may wish to discuss with their assessor
• Any activities undertaken by the assessor or centre to review the student’s DSA support, for the duration of the original course.
• Liaison with funding bodies, equipment suppliers, HEIs or other stakeholders, for the purpose of review of the student’s support needs.

What if I have a complaint?

If you have a complaint about any aspect of your assessment please raise it with the Access Centre Manager as soon as possible : Dave Parrington, email: david.parrington@blackburn.ac.uk, Telephone: 01254292224

The next stage would be to direct your complaint, preferably (but not necessarily), in writing, to Quality and Standards. Complaints can be detailed on a “Helping us to be better” form, emailed to info@plac.co.uk or outlined in a letter to the Clerk to the Corporation, Blackburn College ,Feilden Street, Blackburn, BB2 1LH giving key details.

Pennine Lancashire Access Centre Complaints Procedure

Further information

Studying at University Level Higher Education Universities and colleges are increasingly aware of the needs of disabled students and students with specific learning difficulties. They can provide support in a number of ways – and you may be able to get extra financial help. See: www.direct.gov.uk You can find more information on DSAs at www.dfes.gov.uk/studentsupport in the Bridging the Gap booklet, which is also available from your funding body (LEA / NHS / OU). Information sheets are also available from Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities, at www.skill.org.uk.

What is the Quality Audit Group (QAG)?

The Quality Assurance Group (QAG) was set up by the former Department for Education and Skills (DfES), now known as Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) to establish a framework for assessors and assessment centres such as PLAC. By 2004, the Quality Assurance Framework was developed and launched, and audits of centres and suppliers began in 2005. All assessment centres and assessors are required to meet their published quality standards criteria.