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 personal income details instead.
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.
A student won’t be able to apply for independent status just because they don’t get on with their parents or because they don’t live with them. Similarly, they won’t automatically be able to apply for independent status because their parents refuse or don’t want to provide details of their income.
If a student has had little or no contact with their parents for at least 12 months, they may be able to get student finance as an independent student.
They’ll need to prove that the lack of contact is permanent.
We’ll also need confirmation of their circumstances from a professional person, outside of their family. This could be:
- a letter from their social worker
- a letter from their Jobcentre Plus office showing they got benefits because of their situation
- a letter from an advice worker, personal tutor or teacher, or
- a letter from their doctor.
Depending on their circumstances, they might need to send us:
- their marriage or civil partnership certificate
- photocopies of their P60s or a letter from their employer(s)
- a letter from their local Jobcentre Plus office
- a letter from their local council or care authority
- their child’s birth certificate.
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 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 all the student finance they’re entitled to.
What is a care leaver?
Starting a course on or after 1 August 2018
A care leaver is a young person under the age of 25 who at any point from the age of 14 to the first day of the first academic year of the course has not been under the legal care of their parents for 13 weeks or more and has:
- been under a special guardianship order, or
- been in the custody or legal care of, or
- been given accommodation by a Local Authority.
Starting a course before 1 August 2018
A care leaver is a young person under the age of 25 who at any point from the age of 16 to the start of the course, has not been under the legal care of their parents and for three months or more has been in the custody or legal care of, or has been given accommodation by a Local Authority. If they have returned to the legal care of their parents, they are no longer regarded as a care leaver.
They will 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.
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:
- were under the care of their LA,
- have now left the care of the LA, and
- are a care leaver as defined in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014
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 – www.standalone.org.uk
Propel – www.propel.org.uk
National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) – www.nnecl.org