Queen Mary University of London Support for care experienced students
Queen Mary is committed to supporting those who are, or have been, in the care of a Local Authority (in foster care or semi-independent living or a residential care home), to achieve their potential and succeed at university. As such, Queen Mary has a dedicated scheme to support care experienced students, which includes having a dedicated, named member of staff as your key contact. This page outlines this support, which is largely delivered by Welfare Advisers working within the Queen Mary Advice and Counselling Service. One of the Welfare Advisers will be your dedicated key contact for support during your time at Queen Mary. You are encouraged to contact us to access this support scheme before you start at Queen Mary - ideally before you apply for your place at university or soon after. However you are also welcome to contact us at any stage of your course.
This page will help you understand what support is available for you as a care experienced student at Queen Mary. You will have some important decisions to make about where to live and in what type of accommodation, and you will need to understand what funding you can apply for to pay for your living costs and tuition fees.
Coming to university without family support can be challenging, but there is a lot of support at Queen Mary to help you with any difficulties you might have, and we have many students studying with us who are care experienced. As someone who has been living without family support, you are likely to have acquired a lot of useful skills which will help you to cope well at university, for example you may be used to managing your own finances, and to independent living.
We encourage you to disclose your care experienced status on your UCAS application form (There is a tick box on the UCAS form which lets us know you are care experienced, and you can also mention it in your personal statement). This is useful for the admissions tutor to be aware of. If you didn’t mention it and would now like to (if your application is still being considered) you can email the Admissions team dealing with your application and ask them to let the admissions tutor know.
We do understand that you may be unsure about letting the university know you are care experienced but please be aware that this information is only ever shared with those staff who need to know, and this information will never be used against a student; it will be used to offer you appropriate support, and you can then decide whether you want to take advatange of that support, and if so, when you want to do that.
There is more information on the UCAS website including a video about coming to university with experience of being in care.
You may find the Propel web pages a useful source of information when you are making decisions about Higher Education.
Also see the section of this page Can I get any extra financial support as an independent student? for information about the Unite Foundation Scholarship which pays the cost of accommodation in a private hall of residence opposite the Queen Mary Mile End campus. Care leavers are given priority for this scholarship.
You will need to decide what type of accommodation and in what location will be best for you, according to your circumstances.
If you feel settled in your current accommodation, and if you feel that the journey to Queen Mary would be manageable, you might decide to stay there while you are a student. You will need to factor the cost of travelling to university into your budget - see What's the cost of living in London?
If you are living in a flat provided by your Local Authority, you need to be aware that if you decide to leave that accommodation while you are a student to live elsewhere, you would be unlikely to get re-housed by the Local Authority again at a later date, because at that stage it is unlikely that you would fall into one of their priority groups for housing.
Also, some Local Authorities pay for the cost of accommodation for those leaving care for a period of time after they turn 18. Check with your Social Worker or Support Worker whether you would be offered help with accommodation costs while you are at university, as this is likely to influence your decision about where to live.
All new students are guaranteed a room in Queen Mary Halls of Residence, on the Mile End campus, but only in your first year. After that you would need to look for privately rented accommodation. Once you are offered a place on a course at Queen Mary, you will be emailed information about how to apply for a room in Halls - the deadline is 31 May.
If you are also applying for the Unite Foundation Scholarship, that should be decided by early July, which is before the deadline to accept an offer of halls accommodation. So, you can wait until you know whether you have been awarded the Unite bursary before you have to decide whether to take a room in halls.
Or you may prefer to rent private accommodation. Queen Mary Housing Services staff can advise you on all of your housing options. You can either call in to see them or contact them to book an appointment - contact details are here.
Current students can apply to stay in halls of residence during the summer vacation. If you have already been living in halls during the academic year and you get a summer place, you may have to move room. To apply for summer accommodation you just email email@example.com and ask for a summer housing application form to be emailed to you - applications open each March and summer rooms are allocated from the end of April onwards. There is no application deadline but it is advisable to apply in March as all the vacancies may have been filed if you apply later.
If you are not in contact with your parent(s) or guardian, you need to apply to SFE (Student Finance England) to be assessed as an independent student. This means that SFE will not expect you to provide parental income as part of your application for Student Finance, and that you should normally be eligible for the maximum amounts of funding. If you don’t apply as independent, and you cannot provide parental income information, you would only receive the minimum amount of Maintenance Loan, which would mean it would be very difficult to pay for your living costs.
How do I apply to be assessed as independent?
There may be four possible categories you could choose from, according to your circumstances:
- You were looked after by a Local Authority throughout any 3 month period ending on or after the date you reached your 16th birthday and before you start your university course, as long as you were not under the charge of your parents during that 3 month period; or
- Your parents are deceased; or
- Your parents whereabouts are unknown or it would be impractical to contact them; or
- You are estranged from your parents, which generally means you are not in communication with your parents, and that this situation is unlikely to be reconciled: see our webpage about Estrangement
If you meet the criteria of the first bullet point above, SFE will ask you to provide evidence that you were looked after, or have been given accommodation by your Local Authority. Usually you'll be asked to send a letter from your local council or care authority - you can ask your social worker or support worker for this. This letter should confirm you were under the care of your Local Authority, have now left the care of the Local Authority, and are a care leaver as defined in the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000. You will only have to provide this evidence once, at the start of your course. If you can’t provide the evidence asked for, please contact a Welfare Adviser.You can find detailed information about Student Finance and how to apply in our Student Finance advice guide. If you are a medical or dental student, there is a separate advice guide.
You can arrange to meet confidentially with a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service to discuss your situation, and they can help you to think about how you can explain your situation so that SFE will understand it, and what evidence you will need to provide. If you have already applied to SFE and your application was unsuccessful, a Welfare Adviser can advise you on appealing against this decision.
Queen Mary Bursaries
If you are getting Student Finance as a single independent student, you should automatically qualify for a Queen Mary Bursary. You don't need to make a separate application for this, and there are an unlimited number of these bursaries. The bursary is non-repayable and is for you to use on whatever you need.
University Financial Assistance Fund
The Financial Assistance Fund awards grants to eligible students whose income is not enough to pay for their essential costs. The fund can help young independent students with a grant to help towards the cost of their rent during the summer vacation. You might also qualify for a grant during the academic year, depending on your circumstances. More information and a link to the online application is available here. A Welfare Adviser can help you understand if you might qualify for a grant from the fund, and can help you to apply.
Unite Foundation Scholarship
There are a limited number of these scholarships each academic year. The scholarship pays for the full cost of accommodation at Rahere Court (opposite the Queen Mary Mile End campus) for up to three years. Priority is given to young independent students who have previously been in Local Authority care, or residing in a Foyer or similar residential provision for young homeless adults. New students, as well as continuing students, are eligible to apply. The full eligibility criteria, application form and deadline are available here.
If you have applied for a room in Queen Mary halls of residence, the Unite scholarships should be allocated by early July, which is before the deadline to accept an offer of halls accommodation. So, you can wait until you know whether you have been awarded the Unite scholarship before you have to decide whether to take a room in halls.
Support from your Local Authority
The policy varies between Local Authorities about what support they offer to care experienced students after they reach the age of 18. Isabel's Voice is a charity which supports young people in care to access relevant services. On their website you can type in the name of your Local Authority and see what support they offer to care experienced students, so you can see what you are eligible for. If you are not getting what you think you should be, a Welfare Adviser can help you liaise with your Local Authority.
It is very important to plan your budget carefully for university, so that you understand the costs of living and tuition fees, and where you will get your money from to pay for those costs.
We have prepared an example of an undergraduate student budget on our website, so you can see what kinds of expenses you will have. The cost of living does vary a lot according to lifestyle, so the budget planner is just an example which you can download and fill out for yourself, to create your own personal budget plan.
One aspect of planning a budget is to consider whether you need to take the maximum amounts of Student Finance loans. For example, if your accommodation is paid for by a Local Authority, or if you are awarded a Unite Foundation Scholarship, your costs would be a lot less than an average student, and consequently you would need less income. A Welfare Adviser can help you think about your options.
By planning a budget you will be more in control of your money as you will know your total income, and your total expenses, as well as when you’ll receive your income during the year, and when you will have to pay for expenses. It will enable you to identify in advance any gap between your income and expenses, so you can think how to either reduce your spending or increase your income.
A Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service can help you to plan your budget, either before you join Queen Mary or at any time during your course. They can also help you check whether you have applied for all of the funding you are eligible for. There may be sources of funding you have not considered yet – see our advice guide Additional Sources of Funding for details.
As a care experienced student, you have the option of having a dedicated Careers Consultant Consultant at the Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre throughout your course. Employers are looking to see graduates have developed transferable skills and work experience alongside their academic studies. A Careers Consultant can give you one to one advice and help with building your work experience and skills throughout your time at university. If you attend an appointment with a Welfare Adviser, we can make a direct referral to Careers for you.
We will also support you with the transition out of university. Welfare Advisers can provide financial advice and other practical advice, such as thinking about housing.
The Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre can support you with guidance on job seeking.
There is a 'Cap and Gown Fund' in the Queen Mary Students Union which students can apply to for a grant to cover the cost of hiring the cap and gown for the graduation ceremony.
If you have been receiving financial support from your Local Authority, check with your support worker how long this will continue for, as the age limit varies between Local Authorities.
If you are a prospective student, or a current student, you can book a confidential appointment with a Welfare Adviser in the Queen Mary Advice and Counselling Service. During this appointment, your adviser will explain all of the support which you can get at Queen Mary, and explain how to access this, and you can ask any questions. After this initial appointment, you will be able to contact your adviser throughout your course if you need any further support at any time. You can contact us via our website to book this appointment. Please mention when you book that you are a care leaver, and you will be offered a longer appointment of up to one hour.
We have an advice guide which explains the Council Tax exemption for full-time students. In addition, Tower Hamlets Local Authority exempts care experienced people from council tax up to the age of 25. If you move outside Tower Hamlets, you can check with your Local Authority if they have any care leaver exemption scheme.