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advice for students - grief and estrangement guide

This section of our guide includes information about student finance and estrangement and accessing therapy.

This section of our resource will include information on student finance and estrangement and accessing therapy.

Many LGBTQ+ students are estranged from their families, meaning they have no contact or a strained relationship with their parents/wider relations, often because they were not accepted for being who they are.

Being an estranged student can be a very isolating experience. There continues to be stigma in our society and the fear of coming out and facing estrangement can pose a substantial barrier to LGBTQ+ people accessing the help they need, including for their mental health. Many other people are at university experience grief as care experienced or orphaned students, and have lost their families through social care, estrangement, or bereavement – often a mix of these.

The Unite Foundation held an activity at National Student Pride in London earlier this year where attendees could guess the percentage of care experienced and estranged students who identify as LGBTQ+, compared to the national ONS percentage of approximately 4%.

As some guessed correctly, the answer was an astounding 30%. Then, this November 2023, we did a short poll in the All of Us community around the topic of grief and around 87% of respondents had experienced grief from either bereavement or estrangement.

Mindful that community connection and integration is a key factor for mental wellbeing as students arrive at university, we had launched the All of Us Community for all UK estranged and care experienced students which you may find helpful. At the bottom of this guide there are many more sources of support detailed.

student finance and estrangement

Many bereaved and estranged students must go about Student Finance in a more complex way, having to apply as independent or estranged to access loans and grants. This can be especially challenging to navigate when strong feelings of grief surround the practicalities of getting your finances in order.

It is good to look up online and then reach out to your Estranged/Care Experienced/Independent Student named contact at your university or college as they will be able to provide you with more specific advice and get you signed up for any specific financial or other support your institution offers. This could include bursaries (some places offer up to £10,000 a year!), free counselling, signposting to services such as the chaplaincy, 365 accommodation, guarantor provision, local peer-support groups, laptop loans, etc.

With Student Finance itself, you may have to prove your status as ‘irreconcilably estranged’ from your parents, which means you won’t have had any written or verbal contact with either parent and this is unlikely to change. This is usually for a period of at least twelve months, but Student Finance will consider all cases and do allow for less than a year of estrangement where there are cases of abuse or homelessness. If you are struggling with this, UCAS’s page on financial support for students not supported by their parents (estranged) may be of use.

We also provide direct support to young people who are estranged, or care experienced, through the Unite Foundation scholarship that coversaccommodation and bills for up to three years of study, 365 days a year. Ensuring that students have somewhere to call home throughout the holidays, or after graduation, takes away the stress of ensuring a safe and stable place to live. So far, over 700 estranged and young people who are care experienced have received a Unite Foundation scholarship.

accessing therapy

As previously mentioned, there are options for support from the NHS or perhaps from an employer. In most areas of England, you can google “NHS talking therapy self-referral” and then your city to refer yourself for NHS therapy.

If you are in school, college or university, you should visit your student office or student services team and ask for support. There may be an in-house counsellor you can speak to or a grief network with groups you can attend. You can find out more about accessing these services in our ‘practical support’ section.