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Advice and Counselling Service

Students without family contact (estranged)

If you no longer have a relationship with your parent(s), for example if you don’t see them, or don’t communicate with them, this is referred to as ‘estrangement’.  

Three students talking in a room with orange wallsIf you have very occasional communication, you might still be able to be considered estranged. We have another webpage which explains what estrangement is, how and why it might happen, and what emotional support is available for anyone affected by estrangement. We also have a blog post about going to university without family support, which was written by one of our Counsellors. 

Queen Mary University of London has taken a pledge to outline our ongoing commitment to estranged students, with the organisation Standalone. Queen Mary has a dedicated scheme to support estranged students to achieve their potential and succeed at university. 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 us to access this support scheme ideally before you start at Queen Mary or at any time during your studies.   

If you become estranged from your family during your course, or if you are thinking of estranging yourself, please contact us as soon as you can so we can advise and support you with practical issues such as funding and housing options to help minimise the impact on your studies. We can also offer emotional support via our Counselling Service, including if you are finding it difficult to decide what to do. 

If you are interested in hear about other people's experiences of estrangement, the charity Standalone has produced some podcasts which you may like to listen to.  Also, Estranged and Care Experienced Students (EaCES) in the UK have written a handbook. 

Applying to University

There is guidance for estranged students on the UCAS website about applying, and about coming to university. 

The UCAS application form does not currently have a tick box for you to indicate that you are not in contact with family. So it would be helpful to explain this in your personal statement, particularly if you feel your education has been disrupted because of your personal circumstances.  

Your school can usually provide guidance for applying to university. However, if this is not available or you are not currently in school, you can get some guidance from Queen Mary by emailing or requesting a call from the outreach team(although the email says care experienced, it is created for any student without family contact or family support).

Student Finance

The following information is relevant if you are a UK based undergraduate student and you are eligible for UK Government Student Finance that includes a Maintenance Loan.  It does not apply if you are only eligible for a Tuition Fee loan or you are international student. 

You can find detailed information about Student Finance and how to apply on our Government Student Finance webpage.   
Part of the Student Finance Maintenance Loan, as well as the Queen Mary University of London 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 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. 

If you are a prospective student starting at Queen Mary and plan to estrange yourself before or as soon as you become a student it might be possible to be assessed as independent in this situation, contact a Welfare Adviser who can support you and explain your options. 

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 (often the communication has only just ended in the last few days), or it has lasted one year but there has been some occasional communication, and these applications are usually 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. With your permission, we can email your application for independent status to SFE, and we usually get a decision with a couple of days. 

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 for help you with this.

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. 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

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)

Do I need to provide any evidence?

Most students we work with don't have any evidence, because they have not had contact with a professional person in relation to the estrangement, in which case we just send SFE the student's letter and a letter from the Welfare Adviser, and applications are usually successful. 

However, if someone else knows about the circumstances of your estrangement, for example a professional person outside your family such a as a teacher or social worker, or doctor, then a letter from confirming your situation would be helpful. Sometimes students ask someone who knows the situation, for example a friend or family member to provide a letter. Your Welfare Adviser can discuss evidence with you and whether it would be helpful. 

Where appropriate your Welfare Adviser will also write a letter of support for your SFE application. The adviser can email your independent application directly to the Independent Team at SFE, which means you should have a decision very quickly, usually within a couple of days.  

Will I need to prove my estrangement every year?

When granting independent status on the basis of estrangement, SFE will either: 

  • let you know whether they have granted independent status for the course duration. In this case you don't need to reconfirm your estrangement in subsequent academic years but you do need to reapply for Student Finance each year, as all students do; or 
  • let you know they will ask you to reconfirm your estrangement each academic year, when you are reapplying for your Student Finance. This is straightforward and involves completing 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 who can normally complete this for you.  

If you experience any difficulties in re-applying for Student Finance as an independent student on the basis of estrangement, please contact us.

If your application for Student Finance is not successful, please contact a Welfare Adviser for advice as soon as possible. We can advise you and contact SFE on your behalf where appropriate, with your permission. It may just be that SFE have not fully understood your circumstances, or that they need more evidence, which we can help you with.

The following information applies to Undergraduate students who are eligible for UK government student finance including the Maintenance Loan. It does not apply if you are only eligible for a Tuition Fee Loan or if you are international student.

However any current student experiencing financial difficulties during their course can apply for the Financial Assistance Fund to be considered for an award.  Please check the eligibility criteria before applying and contact a Welfare Adviser if you would like to discuss your circumstances.

Queen Mary Bursary  

Queen Mary Bursary 

If you are an undergraduate student and you receive Student Finance as a single independent student, you should automatically qualify fora non-repayable Queen Mary Bursaryin each academic year of your course in which you are liable for tuition fees. You don't need to make a separate application for this - once you have been income assessed for Student Finance by SFE, the income information will be passed to the Queen Mary Bursaries Office. All the details including how much the bursary is worth and when it is paid are on the bursary webpage.

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 

Young independent students (aged under 25) can also apply to the Financial Assistance Fund at Queen Mary for a grant to help towards paying rent during the summer vacation between each academic year of your course. 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.

If you become estranged during your course, you may need financial help to move into alternative accommodation, or for other costs. A Welfare Adviser can advise you about making an application to the University Financial Assistance Fund in those circumstances. 

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. There is information about funding for this on our Government Student Finance webpage. 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. 

Unite Foundation Scholarship

Information can be found in the Accommodation section below.

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. Check our planning your budget webpage for guidance on how to do this.  

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 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.  


You will need to decide what type of accommodation and in what location will be best for you, according to your circumstances. 

Queen Mary accommodation  

All new applicants are guaranteed a room in Queen Mary Halls of Residence, on the Mile End campus, but usually only for your first year of study. 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 – deadlines and how to apply can be found here.   

Current students can apply to stay in halls of residence during the summer vacation. If you are a current resident you can request a summer extension, but you will usually be required to transfer residences, subject to availability. To apply for summer accommodation you need to email  and ask for a summer housing application - applications open each March and summer rooms are allocated in early May. There is no summer application deadline, but it is advisable to apply as early as possible.

If you are an existing student and you have to leave home quickly during the academic year, if rooms are available in halls then you canapply online (existing students should click on 'returning residents') or contact a Welfare Adviser for help with this and other practicalities. Even if rooms are not available on campus long term, we will help you find emergency short term accommodation which gives you time to look for privately rented accommodation.

Privately rented accommodation

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

Queen Mary has launched a new guarantor service in association with Housing Hand.
We know that finding a suitable guarantor can be tough when moving into the private sector. Housing Hand are here to stand as the guarantor should you be unable to provide one. 

Unite Foundation Scholarship 

Recipients of this scholarship, for undergraduate care experienced and estranged students (first degree course only), get 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 of your rent and bills would be paid for 365 days a year for up to three years. In 2024/25 there are 95 Unite Foundation Scholarships available nationwide. The scholarship is open to both new and continuing students aged 25 or under.  Each year, the exact eligibility criteria is explained in the guidance notes and these should become available in the new year.

The deadline is normally in June each year. 

The application form will be 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.

Social events

We organise regular free social events so that independent students have the opportunity to 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 

The This Is Us community (TIUC) is a dedicated and safe online space for estranged and care-experienced HE students and recent graduates in the UK to connect, share info, arrange meet-ups and more! It’s free, national, and open to all ages & years of study.

Careers support

As an estranged 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. If you let them know that you are an independent student when you book, they will offer you an extended appointment.

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.  

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. 

Access support with your practical concerns

through a confidential appointment with a Welfare Adviser.

Contact us to book an appointment now
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