Care leavers


Who Are Care Leavers?

We understand it can be confusing to work out if you would be considered a 'care leaver' or not.

The broad definition of a care leaver (as described by the Care Leavers Association) is “Any adult who spent time in care as a child (i.e. under the age of 18). Such care could be in foster care, residential care (mainly children’s homes), or other arrangements outside the immediate or extended family. The care could have been provided directly by the state (mainly through local authority social services departments) or by the voluntary or private sector (e.g. Barnardo’s, The Children’s Society and many others).

It can range from as little as a few months to as long as one’s whole childhood (18 years). It also includes a wide range of accommodation. For example, secure units, approved schools, industrial schools and other institutions that have a more punitive element than mainstream foster or residential care. This care would have been approved by the state through a court order or on a voluntary basis.”

COVID19 Advice

Who Cares? Scotland have a new advice and support helpline which can be accessed by telephone, text, and email (Mon-Fri, 12:00-16:00). Details can be found on their website.

You can find up to date guidance relating to the current Coronavirus outbreak on the Become website.

Why Care Leavers May Need More Support at University

Entering university can be a daunting experience for any student. If you are care experienced and do not necessarily have the common support structures at home to help you, this can add additional pressure.  

If you let us know you are a care leaver we can offer assistance to support you through your time at university.  This includes providing guidance, additional financial aid, emotional support, and a range of other things in between including acting as a guarantor for accommodation if you don't have anyone else who can do so. We want to ensure that, as a care experienced young person, you are fully supported during your time with us to enable you to successfully complete your course and undergo an enriching and enjoyable experience throughout your student journey.

Please read our Privacy Notice (FE) or Privacy Notice (HE) for further information on how your data will be handled by the university.

If you discloses on your UCAS or university application form that you are a care leaver then resources can be put in place early, even before you begin your course. Learn more about 'Why tick the box in Apply?'

If you are receiving your funding from SAAS (Student Awards Agency Scotland), you could be eligible for a non-income assessed Care Experienced Students Bursary. You may also be eligible for help with your accommodation costs during the summer holidays that fall between each year of your course. Find out more on the SAAS Website.

The Scottish Government also help local authorities to provide Discretionary Housing Payments, to help with housing costs for those on a low income. If you have a legal tenancy agreement (i.e. renting, not paying a mortgage) and receive some housing costs through a Universal Credit payment (or Housing Benefit) then you may be eligible. You can find out more on the Who Cares? Scotland website.

Who Cares? Scotland have also produced some useful guidance. Their Articulation Resource explains the possibility of going straight into the 2nd year of university with an HNC or 3rd year with an HND, while the Guaranteed Offer Guide outlines Scottish Universities' commitment to guarantee places to Care Experienced students who meet the minimum entry requirements.

You may find that you don’t think you need any additional support at first but if things change and you are struggling with your studies then you should not hesitate to go along to your local student services team who will be able to help with a range of issues. You can also find out more about the specific support offered by the university and its colleges in our Corporate Parenting Plans.

When you have completed your journey with us and are ready to graduate, you may require additional support with the costs associated with attending the ceremony at your college. The university and its academic partners provide a Graduation Bursary for care experienced students which can help with fees, gown hire, photographs, and travel/accommodation. Contact local student services staff for more information and details of how to apply.

The university is committed to providing all our students with a positive experience whilst they are studying with us and to offering the support and opportunities that help them fulfil their potential.

In addition, you may find it useful to access the Essential Student Skills online resource. These interactive guidance materials were created to introduce students to various aspects of learning, including Using Technologies, Becoming an Effective Learner, Core Skills, Assessment, and more. There is no prescribed route through the resources, nor is there a specific timeframe for their completion, and all you will need to access them is an internet connection.

We also have a wide range of mental health support, which you can find on our dedicated webpages.

Further support and advice can also be found by clicking on the links below:

Who cares? Scotland logo

Who Cares? Scotland Helpline - a lifelong offer of advice and support for care experienced people of any age, available Mon-Fri, 12:00-16:00

Care Advice Line - free help and advice, available Mon-Fri, 10:00-17:00

Propel - helping care experienced young people enter further or higher education. Contains collated information from institutions, with an overview of the support available at every college and university. Both the University of the Highlands and Islands and its individual partner colleges can be found on the website.