Assistance and its funding for students with disabilities or chronic health issues.

Navigating university life – with study assistants

Students requiring assistance to cope with their daily lives inside and outside the academic world have the option of using the services of study assistants.

What, when, why?: Objectives and scope

As a rule, study assistants accompany one student individually through his/ her day at the university: during lectures and classes, in the library or the laboratory, during academic homework or with study-related tasks to be completed, on excursions and appointments on/off campus etc. They complete tasks of everyday life that students cannot cope with due to their disability. However, they do not get involved in the academic work itself. Whenever the disabled students requires personal/health care in addition to study-related assistance tasks,(e.g. Change of body position/ transfers, assistance during breaks, with toileting, eating/drinking) this assistance is often provided by the same person(s), even if the funding for this kind of care may come form a different source.

As a rule, study assistants may accompany students everywhere; assistance in exam situations may be granted on application as a form of accommodated examination conditions (Nachteilsausgleich).


Financial and Practical Aspects

Commonly, study assistance is provided and received in the form of an individualised service, organised by commercial service providers, charities or self-help organisations, and paid for by the pertinent agencies of the welfare state (by health care insurance or as a form of social subsidies). Instead of professional formal study assistance, some students also rely on the assistance family and friends may provide. In principle, this is an option; however, the scope of such assistance may be quite limited in practice. Moreover, this solution implies the risk of unnecessary tensions (at a very personal level), which may impede the self-determination of students with health issues. Due to legal regulations in German social law, close relatives may not be paid for care work with money from public funds.    

The option of regular, professional study assistance need not interfere with or exclude occasional support provided by fellow students. Such support, however, will only in some special situations be enough to cover the needs of disabled students. As a rule, assistance with personal (health) care can not be provided in this manner.

Except for certain special constellations, the cost of study assistance is usually covered by social security payments / welfare benefits (Sozialleistungen). Applications may be addressed to the überörtliche Sozialhilfe-Träger (trans-regional agency of the welfare state) in charge. As of January 2020, this is the Landeswohlfahrtsverband Hessen (Public Welfare Association of Hessen) for applicants in Frankfurt am Main.

Whether you are eligible for social security payments if you are not a German citizen is a question of some legal complexity. We encourage you to seek legal advice on this as soon as possible, if this issue is likely to affect your stay/ studies in Germany.

Application Process

This text outlines the typical process for German citizens. For international applicants, different rules may apply. Please consult the relevant authorities or a lawyer.
In the course of the application process, the agency of the welfare state responsible for the payments determines, how many hours of assistance this individual person with a health impairment is entitled to claim and accordingly allocates a certain amount of money.
There are various options for organising the assistance in real life and ensure that the required assistance is ensured on a daily basis: The student may use the services of a care provider/ agency, who cooperates with him / her to find suitable assistants and takes care of organsational tasks, including hands-on-training for the assistants, regulations for holidays and replacements in case assistants are unable to work, remuneration and book-keeping matters etc.
Alternatively, students may claim the payments in form of a model called a 'personal budget'. This budget comprises a certain amount of money calculated according to the number of hours of assistance the student is entitled to. This money may be used to organise the assistance and either buy the required services or employ a team of assistants directly, in keeping with all legal regulations. If the student acts as employer of a team of assistants, he has to take care of all organisational tasks, financial and book-keeping matters, social security issues, holiday and sick leave regulations etc.. Conversely, opting for this model offers additional freedoms and room for individual decisions.

Options in Frankfurt

In Frankfurt, there are a number of organisations that provide professional assistance and care for people with disabilities / health issues. Two major agencies have emerged from disabled people‘s movement/self- help initiatives. Furthermore, there are a vast number of home care providers, some of whom also provide such assistance. A list of potential regional providers to choose from may be found on the official website of Stadt Frankfurt. 
Advice and counselling on matters of assistance and care may be obtained at the Pflegestützpunkt der Stadt Frankfurt, a municipal service point, with regional self-help organisations and at the legal counselling agencies of Ergänzende Unabhängige Teilhabe-Beratung (EUTB, Complementary Independent Participation Counselling).

Advice and Support for Students with Health Issues
Beratung für Studierende mit Beeinträchtigung

Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 6
60323 Frankfurt am Main