Information, advice and guidance

Supporting students without family contact

Lack of family support during adolescent years can cause serious challenges with practical matters such as accessing funding and accommodation, which can adversely impact on an individual’s studies and their ability to reach their full potential. It can bring a sense of feeling as though others don’t understand their situation and that they need to manage everything on their own, which can lead to isolation.

What is estrangement?

Many young people going through the process of deciding whether to progress to higher education are, for a number of reasons, doing so without the support or approval of their family. They may not be in contact with family at all or may have very limited contact due to a breakdown of relationships with parents or wider family members. The reasons for this are wide-ranging and could include, for example, emotional or physical abuse, clashes of values and beliefs, or family rejection due to sexuality or gender identity. Students finding themselves in these situations are often not recognised by statutory services. They may not formally meet local authority criteria to qualify as a care leaver and therefore end up going under the radar and, in some cases, risk homelessness. 

A blog post written by one of our Counsellors at Queen Mary University of London explains more.  

What can you do to help your students?

The Estranged Students Solidarity Week theme this year was ‘Be an ally to estranged students’. We can all step up as an ally and make a big difference. For example, normalising conversations about estrangement, being conscious of the language you use, and thinking about your students at times of the year which may be more challenging without family support, such as school holiday periods. Standalone has some useful tips on being an ally. You might also be interested to listen to other people’s experiences of estrangement on the Standalone podcast

Encourage your students to be open about their estrangement, and to factor this in to their university research. Support them to make contact with universities as soon as they are thinking of applying - most institutions will have a named contact who is responsible for offering dedicated support to students who are applying to university independently. This contact may be able to help them with evidencing their estrangement to the Student Loans Company, making the transition to independent living and managing their money. Working with the student’s permission, we are committed to removing as many potential barriers as we can.

What support is available at Queen Mary?

Your students aren’t on their own. Queen Mary, along with a number of other universities, has taken a pledge with the charity Standalone to support our estranged students. We commit to supporting our estranged students from the application stage and throughout their time at university through to graduation; to help them to access the funding they are eligible for, to help them find suitable accommodation and to support them both academically and emotionally. 

Queen Mary recently launched its Independent Students Support Group. The aim of the group is to provide a safe and confidential space for a small group of students who are studying without family support to meet together weekly to share experiences of university life and offer each other support. The group is facilitated by a Counsellor and a Welfare Adviser. 

There is further information on the Queen Mary Advice and Counselling Service website about the confidential support available for students who are without family support and how to access this support. Please encourage your students to make contact as early as possible.


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