Host families abuse students

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 November, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 November, 1998, 12:00am

Child welfare laws may be amended to protect foreign students coming to Britain to learn English after police found more than 500 had been abused by the families they stayed with.

They found students had been raped, starved or exposed to domestic violence and illegal drugs.

A group of Russian students was left homeless with no money, while one student on a language exchange programme was forced to sleep in a cupboard, another in a bath.

Police also discovered a known sex offender had been housing students for three years.

Many of the cases, which involved students placed by commercial language schools or those on cultural exchanges, had not been reported.

'These situations arise every so often in connection with all kinds of exchange programmes,' said David Truan, a legal officer for a child welfare organisation. 'At the moment, there are no formal checks on whether an individual family is a suitable host for a visiting student.

'It is a very difficult situation because we are often looking at a link set up by the schools and it is very difficult for parents to check on who will be looking after their children.' Language schools bring about a million students to Britain each year. A register of sex offenders to be drawn up may be made available to schools and parents sending children to Britain.

A spokesman for the Home Office said the protection of visiting students was being studied as part of a wider review of child welfare.