Families of truants to face cut in child benefits

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Parents whose children truant from school and fail to pay a fine will have their child benefit docked under Conservative proposals to clamp down on days lost from the classroom.

The Prime Minister has announced that parents who don’t pay the £60 penalty for their child’s unauthorised absence will see the money retrieved through their benefits.

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Families not claiming welfare can expect to see their unpaid fines pursued through the courts.

The new policy announced by David Cameron at the party’s conference in Manchester is an attempt to remedy the 52 million days lost through truancy a year in British schools.

Figures in a recent Leeds City Council report show 23 per cent of absences among local primary school pupils in the first part of this year were unauthorised.

The figure was higher in secondary schools, where 33 per cent of absences were unauthorised.

It has taken Mr Cameron’s reforms three years to emerge as the Government’s expert adviser on behaviour, Charlie Taylor, developed the plan during coalition under Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Families will also get greater access to childcare at their local school with childcare providers, holiday clubs and breakfast clubs, having the right to request to use school facilities after hours.

This wrap-around care between 8am and 6pm is intended to enable parents to work for longer if they wish, with the convenience of childcare being in one place.

The Prime Minister said: “We are determined to tackle the harm truancy does to a child’s chances in life.

“There is nothing responsible about allowing your child to go without an education. So for parents who let their child play truant and refuse to pay truancy penalties, we will deduct it from their child benefit.”

“Ensuring children get the best start in life is at the heart of our plans.”

Schools do not have to sign up to the scheme but they will be asked by the Government to account for why they don’t want to support childcare providers using their facilities.

Last week it was revealed that Leeds City Council is considering stronger action against parents of truants including stricter fines.

Leeds sits 117th out of 152 local authorities in a league of overall truancy rates.

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