"Cut school truants' benefits"

May 15, 2012, 2:40 PM GMT+0

64% Britons support idea of cutting child benefit from parents of kids regularly absent from school

Around two thirds of the British public feel that parents of children who persistently fail to attend school should have their child benefit payments cut, in line with recent suggestions from a government adviser, our poll shows.

  • 64% say they would support stopping child benefit payments to parents whose children persistently fail to attend school
  • 25% oppose stopping benefit payments
  • 11% don’t know

Absenteeism review

The survey comes in view of the Government’s expert adviser on behaviour, Charlie Taylor, suggesting a crackdown on absenteeism that would see unpaid truancy fines recovered directly from child benefit payments.

In a review of school attendance, requested by Education Secretary Michael Gove, Mr Taylor was asked to look at the issue of school attendance in the wake of England's riots last September, as recent figures show that 400,000 children were persistently absent from England's schools in the past year and missed about one month of school each. Currently, penalty notices, or fines for truancy, can be issued to parents who allow their children to miss too much school.

Is fining parents the best option?

Taylor proposed an increase of penalty fines from £50 to £60 in the first instance, doubling to £120 if they are unpaid after 28 days. At this point the money would then be automatically recovered from child benefit payments, and county court action would follow for those parents not in receipt of child benefit.

The 'behaviour tsar' claimed that 'we know that some parents simply allow their children to miss lessons and then refuse to pay the fine…and children continue to lose vital days of education they can never recover.

'Recouping the fines through child benefit […] would give headteachers the backing they need in getting parents to play their part,' he said.

However, National Union of Teachers general secretary Christine Blower has argued that fining parents will not help, and that the 'huge financial repercussions…[of] having less money for food and bills will simply create a whole new set of problems.'

See the survey details and full results here