CITY students cut off from their families are struggling to cope due to lack of financial support, while the university has failed to sign a pledge to help them.

According to charity Stand Alone, the University of Worcester (UoW) currently has 46 students classed as estranged, meaning they have no parental financial support or a permanent home during the holidays.

The charity – which says Britain has 9,300 estranged students – has set up a pledge for intuitions but lots of universities have yet to commit, including UoW.

The pledge requires institutions to have a named contact for estranged students, to offer support for finance, accommodation and mental healthcare and commit to monitor students’ academic progress more closely.

Stand Alone claims estranged students are three times more likely to drop out of their studies than any other group.

Such students can apply for extra funds from the Student Loans Company, but only if they’ve had no contact with their family for a year.

Worcester psychology student Khadejia Stanley said she often has to miss lectures to take up shifts as a waitress to make ends meet.

“I do get the highest bracket of student loan, but the three term time payments won’t carry me through the summer months," she told the Worcester News.

“I need to work to make sure I have enough for the summer.

“If work gives me shifts, I can’t go to lectures. I would rather work because if I’m not earning, I can’t go to uni as I can’t afford to be here.”

She said the university does offer rooms at slightly lower rates for those who can’t go home during the summer, but they’re not free and work out similar to general student rates.

The 19-year-old, originally from Birmingham, wants the government to introduce a fourth loan payment to ensure estranged students can afford rent over the summer.

“I am going to be without a home for a month in between my lease finishing in July and my new one starting in September,” continued Miss Stanley.

“I don’t know where I am going to stay yet. There are so many students going through this. We stress about the summer months.”

She said there is also a gap between the first student loan payment coming in and the first rent payment needed, which other students often get covered by their parents.

Fellow city student Ellen Flannery is in a similar boat, with her mum having no home as she is traveling the world.

The 20-year-old, who spent much of her childhood moving around the country and at boarding school, hopes to get a job abroad over summer or she will have to couch surf.

“My parents do help me a little bit with money, but I also have my own job, so I’m struggling to get the maximum amount of student loan,” said Miss Flannery.

“I get the minimum [loan] from the government and I’m currently trying to get a higher one, but they don’t understand that my parents are divorced, and my mum hasn’t got an address. It’s difficult.”

Ross Renton, UoW pro-vice chancellors students, said: “The university is deeply committed to supporting all of its students, and has a dedicated Student Support and Wellbeing team, who provide advice, guidance and assistance on a range of welfare issues.

“Worcester was one of the first universities to introduce counsellors and mental health advisors, recognising from an early stage the need to provide a holistic approach to students’ learning.

“The university has additional support in place for care leavers and those estranged from their families, including giving priority to appointments with specialist advisors, offering a named contact, offering accommodation for a full 52-week period if required, and a Christmas Hospitality Scheme.

“The university also provides an Access to Learning Fund – sometimes known as a Hardship Fund – to help those students financially.”

Mr Renton went on to say the university recently agreed to sign up to the Care Leaver Covenant, which is part of the government’s ‘Keep on Caring’ strategy to support people leaving care to become independent.

He said the university, while having not signed the Stand Alone pledge, is “very supportive of the charity” and provides links on its student pages.

“We take our responsibility to the welfare of our students very seriously, which is why in 2018 we were shortlisted in the Times Higher Education Awards in the category of Outstanding Support for Students,” added Mr Renton.

A spokesman for Student Loans Company said: “Each and every student has unique circumstances and, where these change or they require information, we would urge them to call 0300 100 0607 as early as possible so we can assist on an individual basis.”

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