Estranged Students (studying without family support)

Are you studying without the support of your family?

Not everyone who comes to university has the support of their family. There are many reasons why people become separated from family; we understand that these reasons are personal to you. We also realise that coming to university as an independent student might bring additional challenges, financially, practically and emotionally. You may not wish to discuss your individual circumstances or access support but we would like you to know that we are here to offer advice and guidance should you wish to get in touch.

If you are a care leaver, please see our pages about support for care leavers at Sheffield Hallam.

What does estranged mean?

There are many ways to talk about your situation if you’re estranged from family. You may say you’re ‘not on speaking terms’ with them, or you may feel you’ve been ‘disowned’, ‘fallen out’ or ‘lost contact’ with family members.

Assessments for student funding are normally made based on parental income. You may be considered as being ‘irreconcilably estranged from your parents’ if you have not had verbal or written contact with both of your biological, adoptive parents or your only living parent for a significant period of time and this will not change. For funding purposes, a significant period of time is usually considered twelve months or longer prior to the start of your course, but this can also depend on your circumstances. Please see our link to Financial Support for advice on how to show that you are estranged when applying for Student Finance.

Whatever your circumstances, we would like to reassure you that at Sheffield Hallam you don’t need to be on your own. If you would like to talk to someone about university life and how to access support should you wish, please contact our advisers at or visit one of the Hallam Help Points.

If you’re feeling alone or isolated due to being estranged from your family please be reassured that you’re not on your own.  Around 27 per cent of people will be estranged from their family at some point in their life. There are lots of sources of support and information available. We recommend articles by the author Becca Bland. founder of Stand Alone, a charity supporting adults that are estranged from their family. See a range of her articles here.

For information about support as a student, see our pages below:

Financial Support

Statutory Funding (Student Finance)

How to apply for funding as an estranged student

You can apply for Student Finance on their website here.

There is also a lot of information and guidance on the UCAS website regarding financial support for students not supported by their family, which you can view here.

Assessments for student funding are normally made based on parental income. If you are irreconcilably estranged from your parents then you can apply as an ‘independent student’. If you don’t apply as an independent student then Student Finance will try and assess your funding entitlement based on the household income of someone you’re dependent on. If they don’t receive information about this household income, they will only be able to assess you for the basic level of non means-tested funding, potentially reducing the amount you will receive. If you are estranged from your family, when you get to the section that asks whether you are a dependent or independent student, you should tick the box that states that you are “irreconcilably estranged from your family” and you will also need to send in some supporting evidence.

Here is a helpful factsheet from Student Finance England all about Independent student status.

Student Finance England have also provided a form you can ask a referee to complete to evidence that you are estranged. This is the form you need in order to apply for your funding for 2019/20.

If you are applying for funding for 2020/21, make sure you use the correct form here.

StandAlone have written a guide to support estranged students applying for independent status from Student Finance
England and Wales. You can find that guide here.

StandAlone Guide image

There is also a check list to help you work out what sort of evidence you can send to support your application as an independent student..

The Student Finance calculator will help you work out how much funding you will be entitled to.

What if I have not been assessed as ‘estranged’ by Student Finance?

If you are estranged but you’re finding it difficult to apply for Student Finance as an independent student, you are welcome to visit the Student Funding team for advice and support. The advisers there are experienced at supporting students in this situation. You can discuss your individual circumstances and seek advice as to whether you should be eligible for funding as an independent student. They can help you find out the best sort of evidence to obtain and support you in contacting the relevant contacts within the funding authorities.

You can contact the team via Hallam Help to request an appointment. Alternatively, you can speak to you named contacts Emily and Robin, as they can support you to access a funding appointment.

Financial Support from the University

Sheffield Hallam University’s Student Success Scholarship is for new Home undergraduate students starting from 2017 onwards and is designed to help you succeed at Sheffield Hallam.

The scholarship includes a series of financial awards for individual students from £200 up to £2000, as well as priority access to a support package designed to support your wellbeing, develop your employability and enhance your money management skills.

Please read further details about the Scholarship and eligibility criteria here.

You can find out if you may be eligible for any other scholarships or bursaries here.

External Sources of Support

Buttle UK – provides grants to young people in the UK aged 16-20, often when there is no other source of help available to them. To apply for funding as an estranged young person you’d need some support from a person in a support role. This is something we can help with so do get in touch. You’ll find information about the funding and how to apply here: There are particular eligibility criteria for this programme, so please ensure you check this first.

Buttle UK also have on their website a comprehensive list of other sources of financial support you may be able to apply to:

Brightsidehas some useful information for students whose parents are unwilling to provide their income details, as well as estranged students finding it difficult to evidence independence.

Turn2us – is a free service that helps people in financial need to access welfare benefits, charitable grants and other financial help. Their website has a free and easy to use benefits calculator and grants search.

Personal Support


Who can I speak to if I need support?

Emily Marsh and Robin Kerr are the named advisers for students who are estranged from their family and would like to speak to someone in the University. No question is too big or too small! As named contacts we can offer the following support:

  • Robin and I are available to meet with you one-to-one or by phone/email to talk briefly about your situation, discuss any issues or concerns and identify sources of support as needed.
  • We provide regular newsletters by email about relevant opportunities, events and support to help you make the most of your time as a student.
  • You can access to our Estranged Student Facebook page, where you can connect with other students who are care leavers at Sheffield Hallam.
  • We can help you access support with funding issues, financial hardship and money skills from our colleagues in Student Funding.
  • We can help put you in touch with specialist services such as Careers and Employability/Student Wellbeing.

Feel like getting in touch?

If you would like to access support you can email our named contacts for estranged students at


Support in my Faculty

You may choose to speak with someone more closely related to your course, in which case a good person to start with would be your Student Support Adviser. Every student has a Student Support Adviser assigned to them and they are there to help and guide you with any question or concern you might have that’s affecting your studies. You can find out who your Student Support Adviser is by visiting a Hallam Help Point or contacting them on

Student Wellbeing

There are many places you could turn if you feel like getting support with how you’re feeling. It is up to you who you decide to trust. Our Student Wellbeing team may be a good place to start. You can contact the Student Wellbeing Centre on 0114 225 2136.

Support Outside of University

Stand Alone is a UK organisation that offers support to anyone who has become estranged from their family. They also run several events and workshops throughout the year, including group sessions in Sheffield. These sessions offer emotional support and wellbeing development to anyone dealing with the impact and issues of estrangement.

The University has strong links with Standalone and we can refer you to for specialist support or for advocacy services.