"The whole process; moving house, applying for benefits, waiting for benefits, not being able to pay for anything. It has all been difficult"
When Silmiya and her family were granted Discretionary Leave to Remain (DLR) in September 2012 they gained the right to work and access to benefits, but for Silmiya it felt like nothing much had changed. She still wasn't entitled to a student loan and as a full time student was unable to access any benefits. The family's change in immigration status also meant significant upheaval as they made the transition from the asylum support system to mainstream welfare support and employment. They had to leave their accommodation and find somewhere else to live within 28 days as well as seek an alternative source of financial support.
Finding somewhere to live in such a short space of time proved to be very difficult. Due to long waiting lists for social housing, the family decided to rent private accommodation but delays in their Housing Benefit claim meant that they could not pay the necessary rent or deposit. Silmiya was worried that they would find themselves homeless.
In such a stressful situation it was difficult for Silmiya to focus on her studies so she decided to contact Article 26 for help. Rebecca, Article 26 Director supported Silmiya to contact the university's Welfare Officer and they provided assistance by offering Silmiya a temporary room in a university dorm as well as a daily food allowance.
When Silmiya's family found a house to live in, she was able to move back in with them and they continued to financially support her on their very limited income throughout the rest of her studies.
Despite all the challenges Silmiya faced whilst at University, she graduated with a 2.1 BSc in Biomedical Science in 2014.
"Since being a kid, I have always felt like education was the only thing I had that was just mine - that no-one could take away from me"
Marcus arrived in the UK aged 16, alone without any parents or carers. Because he was under the age of 18, he was placed in the care of the local authority who provided practical and financial support until he finished college at the age of 18.
When Marcus got a place at university his social worker told him that the Local Authority was not able to provide any regular financial assistance. Marcus was given £2000 as a contribution towards his living costs as a student but this was nowwhere near enough fudnign to support him. Marcus was granted Discretionary Leave to Remain (DLR) and therefore not entitled to student finance nor was he eligible for welfare benefits.The only way for Marcus to survive was to find a job and work alongside his studies, but due ton high living costs, he had to work long hours just to cover his basic rent, bills and food.
In his second year of university, life got more difficult for Marcus and he had to take on another two jobs; however he remained determined to continue with his education.
Struggling to make ends meet, Marcus contacted Article 26 for support. Rebecca, Article 16 Director explained that becuase he had been 'looked after' by social services, was in full time education and under the age of 26, the Local Authority had a legal obligation to provide him with continued financial assistance. Rebecca referred him to a local law centre who advocated on his behalf and successfully secured further support from the Leaving Care Team to provide Marcus' basic living costs. As a result, Marcus was able to continue studying at University and graduated with a 2:1 in 2014.