Child benefit to be docked if parents fail to pay truancy fines

By Neil Puffett

| 06 October 2015

Parents will have their child benefit payments docked if they fail to pay truancy fines Prime Minister David Cameron has said.

David Cameron said children's life chances are affected if they miss school. Picture: Crown Copyright

Cameron, whose party is currently staging its annual conference in Manchester, said that while truancy rates are down, he wants to take further action to increase school attendance.

“All the evidence is that if children persistently miss school they get a worse education, they get worse results, and as a result they have less good prospects for the rest of their lives,” he said.

“It is so important that we get our children to school and that’s why we are saying that the system of penalties that is already there, where parents can get a fine for not getting their child to school regularly, that those fines should be paid and be taken out of child benefit if they are not paid.

Cameron said that parents who do not receive the benefit, because they earn more than £50,000 between them, should be subject to a recovery process through the civil courts.

“This is about making sure our children get the great future and the great start in life that they need,” Cameron added.

If their child has an unauthorised absence, parents can be issued with on-the-spot penalty notices of £60 per child by schools, rising to £120 if unpaid after three weeks, but around 40 per cent do not pay.

If they fail to pay they can be taken to court where they can face maximum fines of £2,500 or jail sentences of up to three months.

In 2014 a total of 12,479 people were found guilty of truancy offences – up 22 per cent on 2013.

A total of 9,214 fines, averaging £172, were issued by courts last year.

Teaching unions said docking child benefit could make things more difficult at home for children.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "For some families all that this will do is increase the chaos and it will increase the deprivation.

"It won't actually solve the problem and in the middle of all of this is a child who's not getting their entitlement to education."

Cameron dismissed the concerns, stating that the way to help families "is to make sure they get their children into school”.

“If you want to tackle the causes of poverty you need to make sure you have got great schools. We now have schools in some of the poorest areas of the country getting some of the best results, but we have got to make sure children get to those schools," he added.

“I think it is only fair to say to people ‘look, taxpayers pay for benefits like child benefit, but in return for that you must make sure your children are attending school’.”

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