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Estrangement

Students are classed as estranged if:-

  • They are ‘irreconcilably estranged’ from their parents on or before the first day of the academic year for which they are applying for funding and/or
  • They have had no contact with their parents for a period of 1 year on or before the first day of the academic year for which they are applying.

However please note, whilst there is a mention of one year in the regulations this does not mean that every student must have been estranged for a year. It is more about the likelihood of the situation being irreconcilable than the length of the estrangement.

What does Estranged Status mean for my funding?

Most students studying in Higher Education that are under the age of 25 are automatically considered as financially dependent on their parents when being assessed for their student support. However, there are exceptions to this rule, including students that are estranged from their parents.

As some of your student support is means tested on your parent’s income, estranged students who have not submitted evidence of their status would only be awarded the non-means tested amount from Student Finance. Acknowledgement of your estranged status from Student Finance ensures that you receive your full entitlement and significantly increases the amount of living costs support available to you.  This is because you would be deemed to be an independent student.  Please see further information regarding this here.

This web page aims to give you some information on what estrangement means in terms of student support, how you can prove your status, and how you can subsequently access the additional financial/personal support available. 

How can I prove I am estranged?

This is a complex and sensitive subject and everyone’s circumstances will be different. In order to be classed as estranged, you will need to have your circumstances verified by a third party that is independent from your family.

The person who will need to verify your circumstances should ideally be a professional person. Who you ask to do this on your behalf will depend a lot on when you became estranged and who (if anyone) was involved e.g. doctor, teacher, social worker etc. For example, if your estrangement occurred while you were at school or college, it is likely you will have told a teacher or other member of staff at school. In this instance, a member of staff in the school will be able to verify your situation for you. Don’t worry if the staff have changed since you left, as current staff should still have access to your records. If you didn’t inform your school or college, you will need to think about whom you did tell who can verify this for you. Perhaps you visited your doctor? Did something happen at home that involved the police or social services? If so, they would have a record of your situation.

We know that in many cases, you may not have involved anyone else in your situation. Perhaps you moved in with your grandparents or other family member? They may have a residence order for you without you even knowing about it. If this was the case, did they claim Child Benefit or Child Tax Credits for you?  Perhaps they spoke to the school without telling you, or talked to their doctor about the situation.

Please see Confirmation of Estrangement Forms here

If you are unsure of what to do or send, then speak to an Adviser in Student Support and Wellbeing who can give you advice and guidance based on your individual circumstances.

What should my ‘evidence’ cover?

You do not have to give Student Finance England all of your personal information. However, they will need enough details to make an informed decision about the likelihood of your situation being irreconcilable. The letter or evidence should include:-

  • When the situation happened
  • A brief overview of what the situation is
  • What has happened to you since then – such as who you have lived with and who has been supporting you?
  • If you have claimed benefits in your own right under the age of 18 you should include evidence of this.
  • If you have been living in a Foyer or other supported housing scheme you should include evidence of this too. Keep copies of all evidence you send and send by recorded delivery.

Changes to estranged students’ evidence validation process

In the 2016/17 academic year the Student Loans Company (SLC) changed the evidence validation process for full time HE students who were applying for Student Finance England and Student Finance Wales funding as estranged students and this made the application process a more customer-friendly experience.

  • Estranged students who return and apply for support in the following academic years of their course, and who confirm their situation has not changed, will not generally be asked to provide evidence again and the student’s declaration of continued estrangement will be accepted.  If SLC require confirmation of continued estrangement they will write to the student to request this.
  • New students requesting to be considered estranged will be asked to provide supporting evidence from an independent third party in the first instance. If the student has difficulty in providing robust evidence SLC will contact them to help them to review other possibilities and they will give contact details of a named Estrangement Assessor to the student to provide a consistent point of contact. If no or minimal evidence of estrangement can be sourced, a telephone review will be arranged to enable SLC to make their assessment. 
  • Students who have a telephone review to confirm their estrangement (i.e. who were unable to provide full third party evidence), will be contacted in the following academic year to seek any updated evidence. If such a student is unable to provide this evidence they will be contacted to confirm their circumstances through another telephone review.

 

How can the University support estranged students?

Estranged students are strongly recommended to submit an application to the Access to Learning Fund as they are considered a priority group by the University, and are therefore, if eligible, more likely to receive a non-repayable award from the fund.

The rules around estrangement are quite complex, so it would be a good idea to speak to an Adviser in Student Support and Wellbeing about what evidence would be appropriate. Drop-in sessions are held Monday - Friday.  Please see our contact details and ‘Meet the Team’ section in the link below for more information:
www.northumbra.ac.uk/financialsupport

It's suggested that you bring with you the following supporting documents:

  • Recent bank statement
  • Evidence of estrangement (to be discussed with an Adviser)

As well as offering financial advice, please be aware that the University has a range of services available to support you through any challenges which may occur during the course of your studies. Further information is available here:
www.northumbria.ac.uk/ssw

Additional Support

Stand Alone is a charity that works to support adults that are estranged from their family or a key family member. There are around 7,000 estranged students in higher education at the moment and they aim to reach out to and support as many of these students as possible.

www.standalone.org.uk

Stand Alone have also produced guidance materials on the student finance application process to support students who are estranged from their family, and studying without the support of a family network.

www.standalone.org.uk/guides/student-guide

Further Help

As well as offering financial advice, please be aware that the University has a range of services available to support you through any challenges which may occur during the course of your studies.

View Further Help
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