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Government to work with leading charity on identifying key facts and issues.
A wide-ranging Government independent research project is being launched to better understand the needs of students who are estranged from their parents or guardians.
The move – believed to be the first ever in Scotland - will inform any future potential changes to support for estranged students.
It comes as Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead on Tuesday met Stand Alone, the leading charity focused on the subject, which has been campaigning to give estranged students the same rights as other students in Scotland.
A special arrangement to support estranged students is currently in place to ensure they are not subject to means-testing. Any such students in higher education have access to a minimum income of £7,750 through a combination of bursaries and loans, and those in further education can access a maximum bursary of £4,500.
Mr Lochhead said:
“The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring all students, including estranged students, have the same opportunities.
“We had a very constructive meeting today with Stand Alone. We are fully supportive of its efforts at tackling the various issues around this vulnerable group of mainly young people.
“Our officials are now planning a study into the numbers of estranged students in Scotland and the support they need. In what we believe is a first for Scotland, this will aim to better understand the issue, the challenges estranged students face, and how many people might benefit from improved support. It is a critical next step as we consider how best to support estranged students in future.”
Dr Becca Bland, Chief Executive of Stand Alone, said:
“We are pleased that Ministers are engaging with us around the issues that estranged students face.
“The charity and the students who are campaigning with us welcome the meeting today to further discuss the steps we feel Scottish Government needs to take to bring about more equality in provision for this severely disadvantaged group of young people.”
The study announced today will be commissioned externally of the Scottish Government and is expected to be a combination of desk-based research, literature reviews, focus groups and surveys.
Stand Alone is a charity organisation which aims to improve recognition, visibility and support for adults that become estranged or disowned from their family or a key family member.
The Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) already works closely with Stand Alone, and introduced a new process in the 2018/19 academic session to aid the monitoring of the number of eligible higher education estranged students who apply to SAAS.
SAAS has also continued to work with Stand Alone to make improvements to the online application process for estranged students and are making additional enhancements, which includes the a new estrangement category, from academic year 2020/21.