Parents of truant children will have child benefit docked if they fail to pay fines

Teachers unions say the move will only increase deprivation.

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The Independent Online

Parents who refuse to pay fines for their children playing truant will have their benefits cut, David Cameron has said.

The Prime Minister, who was due to announce the plans at the Conservative Party conference, says a civil penalty of up to £120 could be claimed through child benefit if fines are not paid after 28 days.

Mr Cameron was due to say: "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."

Under the current system parents face a £60 civil penalty in England, doubling to £120 after 21 days and subject to prosecution after 28 days.

Currently 40% of fines go unpaid. But many parents do not end up in court because councils do not pursue legal action.

But Chris Keates, general secretary of teachers union NASUWT, does not think cutting child benefits is the answer.

He told the BBC: "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 and in the middle of all of this is a child who's not getting their entitlement to education."

The Press Association obtained figures earlier this year which showed 16,430 people in England were prosecuted last year for child truancy.

Around three quarters of these were found guilty with courts issuing 9,214 fines worth an average of £172.

Mr Cameron’s plans are expected to save councils money by avoiding the legal costs of taking parents to court. However local authorities will be under pressure to pursue legal cases where parents don’t receive child benefit.

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