Information and resources for care leavers

26 September 2022

What do we mean by care leaver?

In relation to student finance, a care leaver is defined as a young person who meets all of the below criteria:

  • They have been in the care of, or have been given accommodation by, their local authority
  • Their time in care lasted at least 13 weeks
  • Their time in care ended after they turned 16
  • They have not returned to the care of their parent(s) prior to the first day of the first academic year of their course

What does care leaver status mean for a student finance application?

When care leaver students apply for finance, they will not be asked to provide their parents’ details. Instead, care leavers will be assessed as independent students. This means that once we receive evidence of care leaver status, we will award the maximum amount of Maintenance Loan available to them.

Students only need to demonstrate their care leaver status once – at the beginning of their course. Following this we will allocate maximum support (if they want it) for every year of their course – subject to usual entitlement guidelines.

Students should always apply for their student finance as soon as possible. This will help to make sure they get some money in time for starting their course.

How do students provide evidence of their care leaver status?

Students should provide us with:

  • a letter from the relevant local authority; or
  • a letter from their case/social worker.

This letter must confirm:

  • that the student was looked after by a local authority (this includes being placed in foster care by their local authority)
  • the dates that the student was/is in care
  • that the student has not returned to the care of their parent(s) prior to the first day of the first academic year of their course

Students can find their local Student Finance NI (SFNI) office to send their evidence to.

What else do care leavers need to know?

Universities and colleges can provide care leaver support, with advisers usually found within the Student Services, Student Wellbeing or Student Union Teams.

Additional agencies that offer advice to all care leavers include The Become Trust, NNECL, Brightside and the Care Leaver Association.

Students can contact Student Finance Northern Ireland to discuss any part of the care leaver customer journey. However, if they prefer, we can speak directly with their Local Authority Support Worker. Students can nominate them for Consent to Share. Once we’ve received this request, we can share updates and give advice to the student or their support team.

We’ve created a short guide to applying for student finance as a care leaver which you can pass to students.

Important information for students who qualify as care leavers

Last modified: 14 May 2024