What is a care leaver?
Officially, care leavers are young people (up to the age of 25) who have been looked after by the local authority for more than 13 weeks since they were 14, including some time at age 16 or 17. This is the definition which most UK universities and colleges follow (with the exception of Scotland - see below).
If you’re a care leaver, it means you should be receiving some leaving care support, including having a pathway plan and a personal adviser. If you’re over 21, you might have stopped getting support from a personal adviser or have a pathway plan, but the law says that you can go back to your local authority until you're 25 and ask to be assessed for support from a personal adviser and get a new pathway plan.
In Scotland (as of April 2015), a 'care leaver' is a young person who ceased to be looked after on, or at any time after, their sixteenth birthday. Care leavers are able to access aftercare support from their local authority. However, universities and colleges in Scotland typically refer to 'care-experienced' learners when determining eligibility for support. Care-experienced people are those who are or have been looked-after by their local authority due to concerns about their wellbeing or protection. For more information on the different types of care experience and if you're eligible for support from SAAS or your university or college, look at the eligibility pages on the SAAS website.
I’m still in care, not a care leaver. Does this mean this site isn’t for me?
Not at all! It’s great that you’re thinking about your future and what you want to do next after school and college. The sooner you start thinking, the sooner you can plan. Talk to your social worker, your carers and independent reviewing officer (and personal adviser if you have one) about your thoughts, so you can get things written down into your care plan (and your pathway plan) and help plan your journey to higher education.
I don’t fit the official definition of a care leaver, but I have spent some time in care, or I haven’t always been looked after by my parents – can I get some help?
Some universities may offer some or all of the support that is on this website for students who have been looked after by family members, spent some time in care, but are not officially a care leaver, or who might be estranged from their parents. It’s worth getting in touch with the named contact to see what support they can offer.
In Scotland, universities and colleges typically refer to 'care-experienced' learners when determining eligibility for support. Care-experienced people are those who are or have been looked-after by their local authority due to concerns about their wellbeing or protection. For more information on the different types of care experience and if you're eligible for support from SAAS or your university or college, look at the eligibility pages on the SAAS website.
Stand Alone has advice for estranged students in England, as well as online support groups in England, Scotland and Wales for people who are estranged from their parents.
Buttle UK offer financial support for young people who are estranged from their parents.
What if I want to study abroad?
There are a few ways you can do this. Some courses, like language courses, offer it as part of the course. This is normally called the Erasmus year, in which you spend a year studying, working or teaching in a country that speaks the language you’re learning. Other courses might offer time abroad as something a bit extra, for example, studying Anthropology and going to study it in another country. Don't worry, this would usually be at a university that teaches some of its courses in English!
Some universities have campuses abroad you could study at, or you might want to try a work placement abroad. Some unis call these exchange programmes, or a year abroad. Ask the named contact about the best person to speak to about going abroad. Check out Sophina’s story to find out more about her French degree, and her year in France.
You could also study at an international university. Lots of unis abroad teach some of their classes in English. Funding for studying at international universities will depend on each university – it could be more or less expensive than studying in the UK.
If you're an English student, you can apply to the government for a travel grant to help with your travel expenses if you're studying abroad. You can find out more about how much you might be able to get and the eligibility conditions here. You can also access something similar if you're a Northern Irish student, find out more here.
For information about financial support (including scholarships) for studying in Europe, check out the European Funding Guide.Some universities have campuses abroad you could study at, or you might want to try a work placement abroad.
How do I get support?
Whether you're still in care, a care leaver or have spent time living away from your parents, Propel can help.