What is an estranged student?
Students who are ‘estranged’ have no communicative relationship with either of their living biological parents and often their wider family networks as well. Local authorities have no statutory responsibility to look after the welfare of these young people, or provide accommodation in the holiday periods (as they do for care leavers who have been in care for at least thirteen weeks spanning their sixteenth birthday). Student Finance England and NHS Student Bursaries must assess estranged students for financial support on their own household income and not that of their biological parent(s). To be eligible, students normally have to provide evidence from an independent trusted person (e.g. teacher or social worker) that:
- they have had no written or verbal contact from their parents for 12 months before the start of their course (exceptions to this timescale can be made in extreme circumstances)
- they expect this situation to be irreconcilable.
Reasons for estrangement and the challenges students may face
In 2013-14 the SLC recognised 9,338 students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as officially ‘estranged from parents’ for over 12 months in 2013-14. The majority of ‘estranged’ students remove themselves from a dysfunctional family situation without professional intervention, most frequently between the ages of 16-19 years. 76 per cent of estranged students surveyed in research conducted by Stand Alone and the Student Loans Company had not been in local authority care.
Students become estranged from their families because of abuse, particularly emotional abuse; a clash of values; and mismatched expectations around family roles. In many cases, there are issues related to divorce, honour-based violence, forced marriage, and family rejection of LGBTQI+ students. Many may face homelessness.
What we do to support estranged students
- The University of Surrey provides information advice and guidance at pre and post entry stages to support students to understand the Government and University financial systems and help available to them.
- Just email firstname.lastname@example.org to request help, one of our NASMA money advisors from the Student Support services advice team will get in touch.
- Discretionary hardship funds are available to students who have a shortfall between income and reasonable expenditure or who face sudden or unexpected financial costs
- Where you have an estranged status we will assess the help to include consideration of summer accommodation and living costs.
Further information and resources
The above information utilises information from the sector OFFA briefing: www.offa.org.uk/universities-and-colleges/guidance/topic-briefings/topic-briefing-estranged-students/
Please also see the Standalone Foundation pdf guide: http://standalone.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/StandAloneUNITEfoundation.pdf
Victim of domestic violence
The Head of Student Support will also consider the safety individual needs of confirmed students who have police high risk safety plans, in liaison with our security services department.