The closure of schools means many international students are staying in homestays. An arrangement where an international student aged under 16 years (18 if they are disabled) is staying in a homestay while their school is closed, for 28 consecutive days or longer, would fall under a private fostering arrangement. Schools and guardians are obliged to report arrangements to the local authority where the student is staying.
What is private fostering?
Private fostering is the name for an informal arrangement made by parents for a child to live with another family.
A child is automatically being privately fostered if they are:
- Under the age of 16 (or 18 if they’re disabled), and
- They are being provided with accommodation by someone who is not a close relative. A close relative is an aunt, uncle, step-parent, grandparent or sibling, but not a cousin, grand aunt/uncle or a family friend, and
- It is intended that the young person will be provided with accommodation for a period of 28 days or more.
Why some children and young people are privately fostered
Here are some of the more common examples of private fostering:
- Children living with a friend’s family as a result of parental separation, divorce or arguments at home,
- Teenagers living with friends or extended family following problems at home,
- Children whose parents work or study at unsociable hours, making it difficult for them to use ordinary day care or after school care,
- Children sent to this country for education or health care by birth parents living overseas.
Is there an exemption to the private fostering rule during the pandemic?
No there is no exemption, any private fostering arrangement must be reported to the local authority. Local authorities have a statutory duty to assess arrangements.
Who should report the arrangement, the school or the guardian?
Both parties should report the arrangement, it does not matter if the information is doubled up. The AEGIS Quality Standards explain that the guardian is to liaise with the school. It will be particularly helpful to schools if AEGIS guardians are proactive in keeping them informed of where children are staying.
Which local authority do we have to report the arrangement to?
The arrangement must be reported to the local authority where the child is actually staying, therefore the homestay’s local authority.
Which department should we notify?
Each local authority has a Private Fostering Team who you would notify of any private fostering arrangements. A referral form will need to be completed which you should be able to find on the local authority website, along with a telephone number should you have any queries. Google search suggestion: *County* Private Fostering Referral Form.
How soon should we report the hosting arrangement?
As soon as you are aware that a hosting arrangement will meet the 28 day threshold, please report to the local authority.
Do schools have a duty to report a private fostering arrangement?
Advice regarding private fostering within Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020 remains relevant to schools, this includes the obligation to notify the local authority of any private fostering arrangements, please see from P54, point 207:
As a visa sponsor, the school has to report any private fostering arrangement or they risk having their sponsor licence revoked:
3.30 If a child student will be cared for in a private foster care setting, the sponsor must give the local authority in whose area the child will live the following details, as soon as they become aware that the child has arrived in the UK or, if the private care arrangement begins when the child is already here, as soon as they become aware of the change:
a. the name of the foster carer; and
b. the address where the foster carer and the student will live.
3.31 If you fail to do this, we will immediately revoke your licence.
3.32 If a child student will be cared for by their parent who has permission under the Parent of a Child Student route, the sponsor must notify UKVI through the SMS within ten working days if there is any change in the care arrangements for the child. If the child student is 16 or 17 years old and will be living independently, the sponsor must submit a letter from the child student’s parent or legal guardian confirming they consent to their child living independently in the UK. If the child student will be residing with a resident British citizen or other UK resident who is a close relative or in a private foster care arrangement, the sponsor must submit the additional evidence for the new care arrangement on behalf of the child student, as set out in Appendix Child Student of the Immigration Rules.
3.33 A student aged 16 or 17 has the legal right to live independently in the UK, and may make their own accommodation arrangements. However, when a 16-or 17-year-old applies for a visa under the Student route they must have their parents’ permission both to travel to the UK and to live independently. For more information, see paragraph ST 21 in Appendix Student of the Immigration Rules.
As an international student has an appointed guardian, do we still have to report a private fostering arrangement?
Educational guardians are appointed for international students. Educational guardians are not legal guardians therefore a private fostering arrangement would need to be reported to the local authority.
Homestays are anxious/reluctant to have checks through the local authority, how can we put their minds at rest?
The follow up is a supportive welfare check. A member of the private fostering team would normally speak to the child and host parent. They will be wanting to find out more about the host’s parenting capacity and experience. Private Fostering teams are aware that hosts of international students are often very experienced. They would also follow up two references, expect to have evidence of DBS checks on the family and a health & safety check of the residence, much like the AEGIS homestay checks. The local authority will deal directly with the homestay but information can be provided via a guardianship organisation to support the process.
Homestays are anxious about Covid-19 and do not want people visiting their homes, how is this being handled?
Local authorities are sensitive to people’s concerns during the pandemic and understand hosts might be shielding or feeling worried about having people in their homes. They are conducting interviews via video call or some might prefer a doorstep visit. If a face-to-face visit is deemed necessary, PPE is worn and social distancing adhered to.
Does the student have to be removed from the homestay while the local authority is carrying out checks?
No the student does not need to be moved, they can continue their stay with their homestay.
Can we move a child every 27 days to avoid the checks?
Moving a child to avoid the private fostering checks goes against best practice and is exactly the type of practice which local authorities are trying to prevent. It would not be in the best interests of the child.
How can AEGIS Guardians help?
AEGIS guardians are already aware of private fostering arrangements and requirements due to the AEGIS Quality Standards which AEGIS guardians adhere to. Standard 10 refers to Private Fostering:
10.1 Where a guardianship organisation has any day students under the age of 16 (under 18, if the student has a disability) living with homestays who are not their parent or a close relative for 28 days or more, they must adhere to the regulations regarding private fostering in place within their local area as directed by their local authority.
10.2 The guardianship organisation is required to liaise with the school and the homestay to ensure that where possible the local authority is notified of the proposal for a private fostering arrangement at least six weeks before the date on which the arrangement is to begin or immediately where the arrangement is to begin within six weeks.
10.3 The guardianship organisation must liaise with the school and homestay to explain carefully what is required of them in entering into a private fostering arrangement. This includes explaining that there will be regular visits and meetings with the local authority.
10.4 The guardianship organisation is required to have a system in place for recording all correspondence with the local authority private fostering team and securing relevant permissions to share such information as is necessary with the student, parents, agents (where appropriate), homestay and partner school.
10.5 In the case of day students over the age of 16, the guardianship organisation should be mindful of the extended period students will spend with homestays and regularly carry out suitable checks to monitor and ensure their welfare.
AEGIS guardians adhere to stringent homestay checks and safer recruitment procedures for all homestays, whether hosting students for short or long stays, as these are AEGIS requirements. They are aware of their private fostering reporting duty and many will already be working with private fostering families.
If you require any help or guidance about hosting of international students, please do not hesitate to contact us firstname.lastname@example.org