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Advice and Counselling Service

Care experienced students

Queen Mary University of London 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.  

Hands of different people holding together a small plant Queen Mary is signed up to the Care Leaver Covenant which confirms our ongoing commitment. We offer students a dedicated, named member of staff as your key contact (a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service). You are encouraged to contact usto access this support scheme ideally before you start at Queen Mary or at any time during your studies.

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. One of our Counsellors has written a blog post about going to university without family support. 

Applying to university

Applicants that have been in care for at least 13 weeks during the period of their secondary education would be eligible for a reduced grades offer from Queen Mary if studying A Levels or the IB. Full information about Queen Mary's contextual admissions policy can be find on the Admissions webpage. 

Therefore, we encourage you to disclose your care experienced status on your UCAS application form (there is a question about this on the UCAS form). You can also mention it in your personal statement - if you are unsure about this you may like to read a blog post about this from the Become charity. 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 consider a contextualised offer and to make you aware of appropriate support, and you can then decide whether you want to take up that support, and if so, when you want to do that. 

If you need guidance about applying to university, your school can usually provide this, but if this is not available or you are not currently in school, you can get some guidance from Queen Mary by emailing care-experienced@qmul.ac.uk or requesting a call from the outreach team. 

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. IMO has a UCAS application guide, links to useful organisations, and several stories from students as well as podcasts about their experiences of university.  

Accommodation

You will need to decide what type of accommodation and in what location will be best for you, according to your circumstances. Also, as a care experienced student you may be eligible for some financial support towards your accommodation costs from your Local Authority (whatever type of housing you live in) - see the section below about Extra Financial Support. 

Queen Mary accommodation

All new undergraduate 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 usually the end of June.   

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 need to email  residences@qmul.ac.uk 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. 

Privately rented or Local Authority housing

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.

Queen Mary Housing Services staff can advise you renting in the private sector and also have detailed guidance on their website.   
 
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. 

Unite Foundation Scholarship

The scholarship gives undergraduate care experienced and estranged students (first degree course only) a free ensuite student bedroom in a purpose built Unite Students building opposite the Mile End campus for a maximum of three years of your university life.  

All your rent and bills would be paid for 365 days a year for up to three years.  

In 2022/23 there are 80 Unite Foundation Scholarships available nationwide. The scholarship is open to both new and continuing students. The exact eligibility criteria is explained on the Unite Foundation Scholarship webpages. 

The deadline is 1 June 2022. The application form is available on the Unite Foundation website. A Welfare Adviser can help you make your application if you contact us at least two weeks before the deadline.  

Applying for Student Finance

If you are a care leaver or not in contact with 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. 

A Welfare Adviser can help you apply as an independent student and the process is straightforward. 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 
  • 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: if this applies to you then please see our webpage about Estrangement 
  • Your parents are deceased; or 
  • Your parents whereabouts are unknown or it would be impractical to contact them;  

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 will 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 have been under the care of a Local Authority in the past but now live with your parent(s), you can still apply to be assessed by Student Finance as a care leaver. This would mean your Student Finance would not be assessed on your parental income. To apply, you need to write a letter and upload it to your Student Finance account, saying the following:
To the SFE independent team, I am applying for independent status as I am a care leaver who is now living with my parent(s). Please advise what evidence I need to provide. My customer reference number is (include the 11 digit number allocated to you by SFE). Add your name, signature and date. 

If you cannot provide the evidence asked for, please contact a Welfare Adviser. You can find detailed information about Student Finance on our Government Student Finance webpages. If you are a medical or dental student, there is separate guidance
 
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 make your Student Finance application. If you have already applied and there is a problem with your application, or it was unsuccessful, a Welfare Adviser can help you to resolve this. 

Postgraduate students 

We have a guide to Postgraduate funding. You won't need to apply to be assessed as an independent student as you do for undergraduate Student Finance, because Postgraduate Loans are not income asssessed.  

Support from your Local Authority 

People who are over 16 and leaving care fall within one of the following categories: 

  • eligible child; 
  • relevant child; 
  • former relevant child; or 
  • other qualifying care leavers 

Depending on which category you come under, particular duties will be placed on the Local Authority in terms of support and services that they are required to provide you with. This is explained on the Child Law Advice website. It is important to be aware of what you are entitled to so that you do not miss out.  

For example, you may be entitled to money to pay your accommodation during the university summer holiday period, or a bursary towards your living costs. It is not always straightforward to get what you are entitled to from a Local Authority so you may like to get help with this from an advocate. Coram Voice are a service which provides free advocacy via a scheme called Always Heard. Their contact details are on their website. 

You can also look at Isabel's Voice which 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. The Become charity has a dedicated advice helpline where you can get advice about your rights in care and leaving care, as well as lots of other things.  

You can discuss this with a Welfare Adviser who can help you to understand what you are eligible for. 
 
Unite Foundation Scholarship 
The scholarship gives undergraduate care experienced and estranged students (first degree course only) a free en-suite student bedroom in a purpose built Unite Students building opposite the Mile End campus for a maximum of three years of your university life.  

All your rent and bills would be paid for 365 days a year for up to three years.  

In 2022/23 there are 80 Unite Foundation Scholarships available nationwide. The exact eligibility criteria is explained in the guidance notes. The scholarship is open to both new and continuing students. Applications will open in January 2022 and the deadline will be published here soon. The application form is available on the Unite Foundation website 

A Welfare Adviser can help you make your application if you contact us at least two weeks before the deadline.  

Queen Mary Bursaries 
If you are getting Student Finance as a single independent student, you should automatically qualify for a Queen Mary Bursary in each year of your course. 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. 

CLES Bursary
Queen Mary University offers a £1500 bursary to care experienced and estranged students to help with costs during the summer vacation between academic years of a course. Eligibility criteria and more information is available here.

Financial Assistance Fund 
The Financial Assistance Fund at Queen Mary awards grants to eligible students whose income is not enough to pay for their essential costs. The fund can help young independent students (aged under 25) with a grant to help towards their living costs 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. There is guidance for Postgraduate eligibility in our Postgraduate Funding guide. 

Study abroad semester or year
 
At Queen Mary we have exchange programmes which allow you to spend part of your undergraduate degree studying abroad, depending on your programme of study. As an independent student you may be wondering how to make this happen, for example how to make the necessary practical arrangements and how to fund the study abroad period. You are welcome to contact a Welfare Adviser who can discuss this with you and help you to understand your options. 

You can also find guidance in our Undergraduate Funding guide about Student Finance funding for study abroad. The Global Opportunities team, who manage Study Abroad, have guidance aboutadditional Study Abroad funding that you may be eligible for, including a specific Study Abroad Bursary for students who already qualify for the Queen Mary Bursary. 

Trusts and charities 

You can check with the following organisations whether they are currently awarding grants to care experienced students, as this information changes frequently. If you need help applying, please contact a Welfare Adviser. 

Planning your budget

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 varies 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 you get a grant from your Local Authority, or you receive a 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 aany gap between your income and expenses, so you can think how to either reduce your spending or increase your income.

A Welfare Adviser 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 on additional sources of funding for details. 

Social events

We organise regular free social events so that independent students can connect with each other at the same time as enjoying some fun activities! Events have included pizza nights, pottery classes, crafting and board games. We encourage students to let us know what activities they would enjoy and try to arrange those.

To be notified of our events, please email
welfare@qmul.ac.uk.  

Careers advice

As a care experienced student, you have the option of having a dedicated Careers 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. Alternatively you can contact them yourself. 

Completing university

We will also support you with the transition out of university. Welfare Advisers can provide money 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. 

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.  

The organisation Suited and Booted assists men into employment by providing interview clothing and interview advice. The Welfare Advisers in the Advice and Counselling Service can refer you to Suited and Booted if you would like to access their service. 

Similarly, the organisation Dress for Success assist women by providing professional clothing and styling, interview coaching and ongoing support.

External support organisations

  • IMO is a voice for people with experience of being in care. It is somewhere you can share stories, experiences and achievements, get and give advice, and lots more. 
  • BECOME is a charity for people in care and recent care leavers. They have information on their website as a well as a free advice line They offer free coaching, and they offer weekly online link ups where you can meet other people socially.  
  • The Drive Forward Foundation, are an organisation supporting care-experienced young people aged 16-26 in London to transition from care into a career.  As well as employability support, they also have a specialist counselling service available.   ​  
  • Estranged and Care Experienced Students (EaCES) in the UK have written a handbook. 
  • Connects is a tool for care leavers to stay informed with all that the Care Leaver Covenant has to offer. Sign-up by inputting your details and Connects will keep you up to date with relevant work, education and recreational opportunities as well as information about support you may be able to access. 

If you are a prospective or current student

Book a confidential appointment with a Welfare Adviser to access any of the support listed on this page or for help with other practical concerns.  

Contact us here
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