Key information on students who qualify as care leavers

What do we mean by care leaver?

A care leaver is a young person who meets all of the below:

  • they've 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
  • in most cases, they've not returned to the care of their parent(s) prior to the first day of the first academic year of their course

There are some cases where a child is in the care of their local authority but live at the parental home. For example, a living together trial period.

If a student lives at home but stays in the care of the local authority for three months after they turn 16 and before the first day of the first academic year of their course, they won't be considered under their parents' care.

In this case, they'll be considered as independent when it comes to getting student finance for living costs. If they're considered a care leaver but live in their parent's home, their student finance will be based on their own income, and they’ll be eligible for the parental home rate of Maintenance Loan.

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

When care leaver students apply for student finance they won't have to give details about their parents. Instead, they'll be assessed as independent. This means that when we get proof of their care leaver status.

Students only need to show that they're a care leaver once - at the start of their course. After that, we'll give them the maximum amount of support (if they want it) for each year of their course, according 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 can upload evidence to their online account. They could upload:

  • 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 (this excludes cases like returning to the parental home for a trial period while under local authority care).

To upload evidence online, students should follow these steps:

  1. Find the evidence we’ve asked for
  2. Get a clear and readable digital copy of their evidence. They can take a photograph or scan to do this
  3. Go to
  4. Log in with their student finance sign in details
  5. Upload their evidence and click submit

Students can also send their evidence to:

Student Finance England
PO Box 210

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 England 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 on the Consent to Share Form. Once we’ve received this form, 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