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Parents face benefit cuts if their child skips school

Written by: Emma Lunn
MP Michael Gove has suggested parents should have their child benefit cut if their kids play truant.

The levelling up secretary said the idea could help restore an “ethic of responsibility” and help “tackle anti-social behaviour”.

The idea of cutting benefits for parents of truants was first suggested by Labour prime minister Tony Blair in 2002, and then again under the coalition government.

Gove was speaking at an event by think tank Onward yesterday. He said: “Particularly after Covid, we need to get back to an absolute rigorous focus on school attendance. One idea that we considered in the coalition years – but which the Liberal Democrats blocked – I think needs to be reconsidered again, is linking parental responsibility for attendance and good behaviour to the state.

“One of the ideas that we floated in the coalition years was the idea that if children were persistently absent, that child benefit should be stopped.

“I think what we do need to do is think radically about restoring an ethic of responsibility.”

But Gove didn’t mention what the penalty would be for parents who don’t receive child benefit because they earn more than £50,000 a year.

Fines for non attendance

At the moment, parents whose children miss school in England can be issued with £60 fines by local councils. The fine rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

Parents can also be ordered to attend parenting classes.

The NAHT, a union representing school leaders, said Gove’s suggestion was “likely to be counter-productive”.

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “It is very hard to see how consigning children to poverty and starvation will improve their school attendance.

“Persistent absence can only be successfully tackled by offering help, not punishment.”

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