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 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 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.

  • 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
Consumer Writer & Money Editor, GoodtoKnow

Sarah is GoodtoKnow’s Consumer Writer & Money Editor and is passionate about helping mums save money wherever they can - whether that's spending wisely on toys and kidswear or keeping on top of the latest news around childcare costs, child benefit, the motherhood penalty. A writer, journalist and editor with more than 15 years' experience, Sarah is all about the latest toy trends and is always on the look out for toys for her nephew or Goddaughters so that she remains one of their favourite grown ups. When not writing about money or best buys, Sarah can be found hanging out with her rockstar dog Pepsi, getting opinionated about a movie or learning British Sign Language.