NO to criminalising children and parents
Punishing vulnerable families
Such measures hurt instead of help children and their families.
There are fears that fines and threat of prison will be applied to parents whose children experience barriers attending school. These parents currently experience high levels of pressure and threats but the numbers who are actually fined are relatively low. Increased government focus and pressure on attendance along with the measures laid out in the Schools Bill will mean that these families are highly likely to be fined, punished, or to be referred to social services, the two pathways laid out.
‘Truancy’ is a gendered offence.
The Crime and Justice Studies research Prosecuting parents for truancy: who pays the price? noted that women were pursued disproportionately for the offence and moreover that this could not be explained by other factors such as single mothers raising children. 71% of the 16,406 people prosecuted for truancy in 2017 were women, 74% of those convicted were women, 80% of those given a suspended sentence were women, 83% of those given a community order were women and nine of the ten people sent to prison were women.
Fines and prosecution do not work in increasing attendance, except in the very shortest of terms.
The report concluded that:
“It is evident that the punitive approach leads to harm for parents, children and vulnerable families. It also appears to be ineffective in getting reluctant and fearful children back into the classroom.
• The current law is cruel and discriminatory and does not achieve its purpose of reducing the number of children who do not attend school regularly.
• Our main conclusion and recommendation is therefore that the criminal law should not be applied to parents whose children do not attend school regularly. It should be a civil matter – a child welfare issue.”
“Reduced dependence on the legal route and financial penalties – we all need to be reminded that punishment is an ineffective way of improving human behaviour”
British Psychological Society