Estranged Students Solidarity Week – What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

To mark Estranged Students Solidarity Week, Tina Bhartwas shares her own experience as an estranged student, and suggests ways that we can show support.

‘Estranged students’ are, according to UCAS, young people studying without the support and approval of their parents due to a breakdown in their relationship – this might be their biological, step or adoptive parents, and sometimes their wider family members. Another name for this that you may see used commonly is the term ‘independent student’. Estrangement can occur for a whole variety of reasons including but not limited to: abuse, neglect and due to lack of acceptance of gender or sexuality or next steps.

Estranged Students Solidarity Week (#ESSW2022) is an important week which falls on 21 - 25 November 2022 and exists to raise awareness and serve as a reminder to universities, fellow students, those supporting students as well as wider society of the need for understanding, reassurance and meaningful action to support estranged students. 

You might be wondering what kind of issues estranged students in particular may struggle with? In my experience as an estranged young person and as an estranged student now in my 3rd year at Uni, these are some of the struggles I have faced:

  • Financial barriers to study.
  • Struggles to secure and retain accommodation. For estranged young people often private renting is our only realistic housing option. But to do this we need: A) A guarantor which tends to be family so not an option OR B) To pay 6 months rent up front which is totally unaffordable. 
  • Mental and Physical Health issues.
  • Repeatedly having to explain my circumstances to different agencies with a detrimental impact on my mental health.
  • Difficulty accessing next steps such as a job/apprenticeship/uni place.

Here are some of my personal suggestions on what you can do to support estranged students:

  1. Platform the voices of estranged students.
  2. Raise awareness within your personal network.
  3. Share resources - you never know who may need them.
  4. If you are connected to an educational institution find out what support they have and how this is promoted.
  5. If you have an estranged student in your life - reach out to them in a sensitive way and listen in a non-judgemental way. It really goes a long way.

I also want to take this opportunity to share the collaboration between StandAlone and UCAS this year on the 'Tick the Box' campaign on social media in collaboration with UCAS throughout the week #TicktheESbox to ensure those that are estranged are able to access the help and support on their student journey!

University is a huge transition no matter who you are but for estranged students with no safety net at all it is all the more daunting. Please spend some time this week thinking about what you may be able to do to make it just that little bit easier.

Here are some helpful resources if you want to find out more and share:

  • Estranged Students Solidarity Week #WithEstrangedStudents @ StandAlone Pledge: 

  • The EaCES Handbook @ Estranged and Care Experienced Students (EaCES) in the UK and the Republic of Ireland:

  • This Is Us At Uni (community led) @ Unite Foundation Students:

Tina Bhartwas is an estranged third-year university student. She is Women’s Officer of the Young Fabians and a Labour and Cooperative Councillor. Tina tweets at @TinaBhartwas.

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