Independent students and care leavers

Independent students

What is an independent student?

If a student is classed as an independent student, we won’t take their parents’ income into account when we’re working out how much student finance they can get.

If they’re married, in a civil partnership or over 25 and living with their partner, we’ll ask their partner for their National Insurance number and income details.


Students will be classed as independent if:

  • they care for a person under the age of 18 on the first day of the academic year that they’re applying for student finance
  • they’re 25 or over on the first day of the academic year that they’re applying for student finance
  • they’ve been married or in a civil partnership before the start of the academic year (even if they’re now divorced or separated)
  • they have no living parents
  • they’ve supported themselves for at least three years before the start of their course
  • their parents can’t be traced or it’s not practical or possible to contact them
  • their parents live outside the EU and an income assessment would put them in jeopardy, or it’s not reasonably practical for them to send funds to the UK to help support them
  • they’ve not communicated with their parents for one year before the start of the academic year that they’re applying for student finance, or they can demonstrate that they’re permanently estranged from their parents


Students might be able to apply as estranged if they’ve had no contact with both their parents for over a year. This means they will have had no written or verbal contact with either parent and this is unlikely to change. However, if they’ve had contact with either parent in the last 12 months, we’ll still consider their application.

Students cannot apply as estranged just because:

  • their parents don’t financially support them
  • they don’t get on with their parents
  • they don’t live with their parents


To apply as estranged, students will need to give us some evidence. The easiest way to do this is to fill in the Confirmation of Estrangement Form. They can get this form on their online account once they’ve submitted their application.

Otherwise, they can send us a:

  • letter from their social worker
  • letter from a doctor that knows their situation
  • police report showing any related incidents
  • letter from a teacher that knows their situation
  • letter from a ‘person of good standing in the community’ (for example a solicitor, religious leader or a counsellor)

Students don’t have to disclose the full details of their estrangement, however this could speed up their application.

If the student doesn’t know a person who is aware of their family situation, they can contact the student services/wellbeing advisor at their university or college. They will be able to help them provide evidence. Their details can be found on the university or college website.

This guide is for estranged students who are applying for independent status from Student Finance Wales:

StandAlone - supporting students who are estranged - student guide

If they’re applying as an independent student because they’ve supported themselves for three years or more, they need to send evidence to show how they’ve supported themselves. If they’ve been working or claiming benefits, they must provide written confirmation of this.

If a student cares for a child and applies for independent status, they should send their child’s original birth certificate and provide evidence they’re caring for the child, such as Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit letters.

If a student doesn’t provide the correct evidence, it could delay their application and they might not get the correct amount of student finance.

Care leavers

What is a care leaver?

A care leaver is a young person who:

  • has been in the care of, or been given accommodation by, their local authority (LA) for a period of at least 13 weeks from the age of 14 up to starting their course.

Students who started their course before 1 August 2018 will be assessed as a care leaver if they:

  • have been in the care of, or been given accommodation by, their local authority (LA) for a period of at least 13 weeks before the age of 16, and
  • haven't reconciled with their parents between leaving care and starting their course.

They'll be assessed as an independent student, which means that their parents’ household income won’t be taken into account when we’re working out how much student finance they can get. Students who have been looked after by family members or legal guardians (without the involvement of their LA), have a residency order, or have been given accommodation or supported housing by a charity will not be classed as care leavers. These students may be able to apply as an independent student in other ways, for example, by showing they are estranged from their parents.

What’s available?

Students leaving the care of their LA are able to apply for the same support as other students without their household income being taken in to account. They’re also likely to qualify for additional support.

Care leavers on full and part-time higher-education courses will get funding from the LA that was responsible for their care. To apply for support from their LA, students should contact their personal advisor, social worker or case worker.

Care leavers may also be able to get financial support, for example fee waivers or cash awards, from their university or college. They should speak to their university or college to find out what support is available.


Students who are care leavers will be asked to provide evidence that they were looked after, or have been given accommodation by, their LA. Usually they’ll be asked to send a letter from their local council or care authority. This letter should confirm they:

They’ll only have to provide this evidence once, at the start of their course.

If the student can’t provide the evidence asked for, they should contact us to discuss their individual circumstances.

Support for care leavers

Students can access support from their university or college’s advice centre or student union. There are also organisations that provide support for care leavers and students who are estranged from their families.

Stand Alone –

Propel –

National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) –

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