If you no longer have a relationship with your parent(s), for example you don’t see them, or communicate with them, this is referred to as ‘estrangement’. If you have very occasional communication, you might still be able to be considered estranged. We have another web page which explains what estrangement is, how and why it might happen, and what emotional support is available for anyone affected by estrangement.
QMUL has taken a pledge to outline our commitment to estranged students, with the charity Standalone. QMUL has a dedicated scheme to support estranged students to achieve their potential and succeed at university. This webpage outlines this support, which is largely delivered by Welfare Advisers working within the QMUL Advice and Counselling Service. You are encouraged to contact us to access this support as early as possible. If you become estranged before you join QMUL, you may like to contact us even before you apply for your place, but you are also welcome to contact us at any stage of your course. If you become estranged from your family during your course please contact us as soon as you can so we can help to ensure that you secure appropriate funding and housing and that the impact on your studies is minimised where possible.
Some elements of Student Finance - part of the Maintenance Loan, and all of the Maintenance Grant (for pre-2016 starters only) - as well as the QMUL Bursary, are income assessed. This usually means that you need to provide evidence of the income of your parent(s). However, if you are estranged from your parents, your Student Finance can be assessed against your own income, which usually means you would get the maximum amounts.
How do I apply to be assessed as independent due to estrangement?
If you are claiming independent status on the basis of estrangement, Student Finance England asks you to demonstrate that either:
• you have not communicated with your parents for at least one year before the beginning of the academic year for which you are applying for Student Finance, or
• you can demonstrate in another way that you are irreconcilably estranged from your parents. This means that for the short to medium term you don’t see that you will be able to resume your relationship with your parents
You can’t claim independent status just because you don’t get on with your parents or because you don’t live with them, or because your parents don’t want to give details of their income, or refuse to provide financial support to you.
Welfare Advisers in the Advice and Counselling Service have worked with many students whose estrangement with their parents has lasted for less than one year, or it has lasted one year but there has been some occasional communication, and these applications can be successful. You can arrange to meet with a Welfare Adviser to discuss your situation, and they can help you to think about how you can explain your situation so that SFE will understand it.
If you are usually assessed on one parent’s income, because your parent is a lone parent, and that parent dies you will be required to either provide income information for your remaining parent or evidence to SFE that you are not in contact with that parent. Please contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service who can help you with this.
You can find detailed information about Student Finance and how to apply in our Undergraduate Funding advice guides (pre-2016 starters / 2016 onwards starters). If you are a medical or dental student, there is a separate advice guide.
What information should I include in my letter to SFE?
You will need to write a letter to SFE, explaining your estrangement. This does not mean that you are saying you will never be able to resume your relationship with your parents, it is just saying that you don't currently have contact with them, and don't expect to for the foreseeable future. You may be reassured to know that SFE won't show your letter to your parents.
In your letter to explain your estrangement, you should try and include the following information:
• what circumstances led up to the estrangement (often someone’s relationship with their parents is difficult for some time before they actually stop having any contact, so you could try and describe this, if it applies to you)
• what you feel are the reasons that the estrangement has happened
• when did it happen
• how did it happen (e.g. did your parents ask you to move out, or did you decide to move out; did you stay with a friend or another family member, or did you start renting your own accommodation, etc)
• what is your situation now (e.g. do you have any contact with your parents at all, if so how often and by what means – phone/email/in person)
• why you feel that for now the situation is irreconcilable (e.g. what is it about the situation that means you believe that you cannot resume your relationship with your parents in the foreseeable future)
You might find that it feels difficult to write all of this information down, as often the circumstances you are writing about will bring up painful feelings. A Welfare Adviser can help you write your letter with you, if you would find that helpful.
Do I need to provide any evidence?
SFE also states that you must provide confirmation of the estrangement from a professional person outside your family who knows about your circumstances, for example a teacher or social worker, or doctor. This is explained on page 31 of Higher Education Student Finance – How you’re assessed and paid.
However, very often students who are estranged from their parents have not had any contact with a professional person in relation to the estrangement, so it can be very difficult to get such a letter. Successful applications have been made using alternative documents, and a Welfare Adviser can advise you about what documents you might be able to provide in support of your application. Often students ask someone who knows the situation and is not a member of the family to provide a letter and this can be effective.
If you feel that getting supporting evidence from someone might put you at risk, please discuss this with a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service. It is very important that you look after your own well-being and do not put yourself at risk. We can help you think about alternative supporting evidence.
Where appropriate the Welfare Adviser will also write a letter of support for you to include. The adviser can also email your documents directly to the Independent Team at SFE, which means you should have a decision fairly quickly.
SFE may be able to accept a statutory declaration written by you. Please see the 'Independent status' section of the Undergraduate Funding guides (pre-2016 starters / 2016 onwards starters) for more information on statutory declarations.
The organisation Stand Alone support people who are estranged from their family. They have written a guide on how your Student Finance application is assessed as an estranged student. It explains what supporting documents you will need to send to Student Finance England to confirm your irreconcilable estrangement from your family. You may like to refer to the Stand Alone guide, however we would strongly recommend that you also contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service at QMUL as we have a lot of experience in assisting students who are estranged to apply for Student Finance.
Standalone can also offer emotional support and have lots of useful information on their website for students who are estranged.
Will I need to prove my estrangement every year?
Once you have been granted independent status on the basis of estrangement, in subsequent academic years SFE will ask you to complete a declaration form, which SFE should send to your online account. To complete the form you will need to ask someone who knows you to confirm that you continue to be estranged. You can contact a Welfare Adviser at the Advice and Counselling Service who may be able to complete this for you if they have previously advised you about your independent application to SFE.
If you experience any difficulties in re-applying for Student Finance as an independent student on the basis of estrangement, please contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service.
What do I do if my Student Finance application has been refused?
Please contact a Welfare Adviser for advice as soon as possible. We are often able to help students successfully appeal against the refusal of their Student Finance application. It may just be that SFE have not fully understood your circumstances, or that they need more evidence, which we can help you with.
University Financial Assistance Fund
Young independent students can also apply to the University Financial Assistance Fund for a grant to help towards paying rent during the summer vacation between each academic year of your course. If you become estranged during your course, you may need financial help to move into alternative accommodation. A Welfare Adviser can advise you about making an application to the University Financial Assistance Fund, or you can contact the Bursaries office.
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 QMUL Mile End campus) for up to three years. The scholarship is open to young independent students who are estranged from their family, or 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 QMUL 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.
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.
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 QMUL 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.
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 QMUL 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? There is a society in the Queen Mary Students’ Union for students who commute to university, which can be a nice way to meet other students who don’t live on campus.
Alternatively, you may prefer to live closer to university, or in University Halls of Residence. If you are a new student and you contact us to book an appointment with a Welfare Adviser, we can speak to the Housing Services team and ask whether they can prioritise you for a place in halls. If you are an existing student and you have to leave home quickly, a Welfare Adviser may be able to arrange a room in halls for a short period of time, while you are helped to look for longer term accommodation. There is lots of information about off campus accommodation on the Housing Services website.
Also see the previous 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 QMUL Mile End campus. Estranged students are one of the priority groups for this scholarship.
As an estranged student, you have the option of having a dedicated Careers Consultant Consultant 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: Careers and Enterprise Centre. If you attend an appointment with a Welfare Adviser, we can make a direct referral to Careers for you.