Annex E: Host families - homestay during exchange visits

Schools and colleges often make arrangements for children to take part in exchange visits, either to other parts of the UK or abroad. Exchanges can benefit learning across a range of subjects. In particular, foreign visits can enrich the languages curriculum and provide exciting opportunities for pupils to develop their confidence and expertise in the use of other languages.

Schools and colleges have a duty to safeguard and promote children’s welfare, as defined at paragraph 4. This extends to considering their safety and how best to minimise risk of harm to those children during any exchange visit the school or college arranges, and when organising for the care and accommodation of a child with a host family (known as homestays) as part of the exchange.

School/college arranged homestay – suitability of adults in UK host families

When arranging a homestay, schools should consider the suitability of the adults in the respective families who will be responsible for the visiting child during the stay.

In circumstances where a school or college arrange for a visiting child to be provided with care and accommodation in the UK (including where they engage a company to make those arrangements) in the home of a family to which the child is not related[114] the responsible adults will be engaging in regulated activity for the period of the stay.[115] In such cases and where the school or college has the power to terminate such a homestay the school or college would be the regulated activity provider.[116]

A regulated activity provider commits a criminal offence if it knows, or has reason to believe that, an individual is barred by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) from engaging in regulated activity but allows that individual to carry out any form of regulated activity.[117]

Where the child’s parent(s) or a student themselves arranges their own homestay, this would be a private arrangement118 therefore the school or college would not be the regulated activity provider.

When a school or college arrange a homestay, it should consider what intelligence/information will best inform its assessment of the suitability of the adults in those families who will be responsible for the visiting child during the stay. It will be for the school or college to use their professional judgement to decide what it considers what will be relevant. However, to help inform that assessment, schools and colleges should [119] obtain a DBS enhanced certificate with barred list information. This check will not only establish whether the adults are barred from engaging in regulated activity relating to children, but where criminal record information is disclosed it will also allow the school or college to consider, alongside all other intelligence that it has obtained, whether the adults would be a suitable host for a child.

DBS enhanced certificates with barred list information for volunteer roles[120] can be obtained free of charge[121]. In respect of an adult who provides UK homestay and receives no remuneration in respect of the stay or where schools reimburse families only for expenses incurred, to enable a DBS application to be considered as a volunteer role the ‘Position Applied For’ field will need to make clear that the position is unpaid.

In addition to those engaging in regulated activity, schools and colleges are free to decide whether they consider it necessary to obtain a DBS enhanced certificate in respect of anyone aged 16 or over in the household where the child will be staying.

Homestay – suitability of adults in host families abroad

It is not possible for schools and colleges to obtain criminality information from the DBS about adults who provide homestays abroad. Schools and colleges should liaise with partner schools abroad, to establish a shared understanding of, and agreement to the arrangements in place for the visit. They should use their professional judgement to satisfy themselves that the arrangements are appropriate and sufficient to safeguard effectively every child who will take part in the exchange. Parents should be aware of agreed arrangement. Schools and colleges are also free to decide whether they consider it necessary to contact the relevant foreign embassy or High Commission of the country in question to discuss what checks may be possible in respect of those providing homestay outside of the UK.

During the visit

Pupils should understand who to contact during a homestay should an emergency occur or a situation arise which makes them feel uncomfortable.

Additional action for extended homestays

Where a period of UK homestay lasts 28 days or more, for a child aged under 16 years of age (under 18 years of age if the child has disabilities), this may amount to private fostering under the Children Act 1989122. In these cases the school or college should notify the local authority of the arrangements. Private fostering legislation places a duty on local authorities to satisfy themselves that the welfare of a child who is being, or proposed to be, privately fostered in their area is being or will be satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. By notifying the local authority, the school and college will be assisting the local authority in discharging its duty. See paragraphs 185-186 for additional information about private fostering and local authority notifications.

[114] This includes where a person has parental responsibility for the visiting child.
[115] Paragraph 1(5) of Schedule 4 and Section 53 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.Where an adult is providing homestay in circumstances other than as described in this section, the school or college should seek advice from the DBS about whether the individual will be in regulated activity.
[116] Section 53(3) and (4) of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.
[117] Section 9 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.
[118] Where it is a private arrangement, the school or college are not entitled to obtain a standard or enhanced DBS check.
[119] See page 3 for interpretation of ‘should’ used throughout the document.
[120] Volunteer is defined as “Any person engaged in an activity which involves spending time, unpaid (except for travel and other approved out-of-pocket expenses), doing something which aims to benefit some third party and not a close relative.”
[121] Some checking bodies will charge an admin fee to process a DBS certificate/barred list request. As these fees will vary, schools should assess what services are being offered and consider what is known about the performance and reputation of the organisation.