Stark benefits warning for parents who let their children play truant

Families could see their benefits removed as part of a rigorous post-Covid drive to get kids back in the classroom

Parents have been warned that they could face being stripped of their child benefit (opens in new tab) if they fail to make their children attend school. But this could be dire news for families struggling with the rising cost of raising children (opens in new tab) amid the cost of living crisis.

The warning comes from Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, who believes that stripping child benefit could help restore 'an ethic of responsibility' and is calling for the previously scrapped plan to be reconsidered.

Speaking at an Onward think tank event at the end of February 2023, Michael Gove said: "We need to – particularly after Covid – get back to an absolute rigorous focus on school attendance, on supporting children to be in school. It is often the case that it is truanting or persistent absenteeism that leads to involvement in anti-social behaviour.

"So one of the ideas that we floated in the coalition years, which the Liberal Democrats rejected, is the idea that if children are persistently absent then child benefit should be stopped. I think what we do need to do is to think radically about restoring an ethic of responsibility."

However, it is not known if Michael Gove’s policy will come into force, and Downing Street has said it is not aware of plans to change or alter current policy.

What are the current consequences of letting your child miss school?

If parents allow their children to miss school without a valid reason, such as illness, local authorities do have options to enforce attendance, according to the Department for Education’s guidance (opens in new tab).

  • Parenting orders aim to encourage and support parents in getting their children back into school.
  • Education Supervision Orders, which give the local authority a formal role in advising, helping and directing the pupil and parent(s) to ensure the pupil receives an efficient, full-time, suitable education.
  • Penalty notices (or fines) may also be issued in order to deal with persistent truancy.

Plan to strip benefits to tackle truancy heavily criticised

But while Michael Gove’s plan aims to encourage children back into school, those opposed think it is counterproductive. 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, 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. What is needed are more support services and resources for schools to work with families and to refer to when there are issues.”

Sarah Handley
Money Editor,

Sarah is's Money Editor. Sarah is an experienced journalist and editor with more than 10 years of experience in the Homes industry, working across brands such as Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living and Real Homes. After segueing into the world of personal finance, acting as launch editor of GoodtoKnow's sister brand, Sarah became Editor in Future’s Wealth division with a focus on property-related finance and household bills, working across brands including GoodtoKnow and Ideal Home. She is passionate about helping people cut through confusing jargon to make the right financial decisions when getting on the property ladder and turning a house into a home.