Plan to dock child benefit causes scare amongst parents

The latest announcement surrounding childcare has caused mild panic amongst parents. The government has proposed a penalty system which will deduct up to £120 of child benefit from families in the UK if their child is regularly found to be absent from school.

During a BBC interview the Prime Minister commented, “Parents can get a fine for not getting their children to school regularly, and those fines should be paid and if not, should be taken out of their child benefit… This is about making sure our children get the great future and the great start in life that they need”.[1]

Evidence shows that children who miss school regularly tend to fall behind on their grades and could damage their prospects when leaving school. By setting up this penalty system the government believes it will convince parents to ensure their child goes to school. However, the teaching unions worry that low income families may end up in a worse financial situation.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the teachers union NASUWT said, “For some families all that this will do, of course, is increase the chaos and it will increase the deprivation. It won’t actually solve the problem.”[2]

This announcement has developed from the term time holiday fine, which was introduced in September 2013. Parents who do not have the school’s permission for their child to be absent (because of illness or a family emergency, for example), face a fine of up to £60 per child per parent, which currently increases to £120 if not paid within 21 days. This issue continues to spark debate, as some parents may willingly pay the government’s fine in exchange for a family holiday that could cost them up to 25%[3] less than it would during the school holidays. But this is not a luxury that all parents can afford.

[1] BBC, 2015

[2] BBC, 2015

[3] The Guardian, 2014