Ben­e­fit cuts for days off would af­fect kids

Bray People - - OPINION - with Deb­o­rah Cole­man

THE link­ing of child ben­e­fit and school at­ten­dance in a bid to com­bat un­nec­es­sary ab­sen­teeism has re­port­edly been in­cluded in the draft pro­gramme for gov­ern­ment. There is a ben­e­fit to en­cour­ag­ing bet­ter at­ten­dance in schools but link­ing it to child ben­e­fit would be al­most im­pos­si­ble.

Aside from the ex­pense to the state, it would be a mis­take to deny fam­i­lies this pay­ment as a penalty for al­low­ing chil­dren to be ab­sent from school.

The process of link­ing the two would cer­tainly be dif­fi­cult to put in place and surely, there is al­ready a mech­a­nism to en­sure that par­ents make ev­ery ef­fort to en­sure their chil­dren at­tend.

For such a pro­posal to be made, there must be a prob­lem with at­ten­dance in cer­tain ar­eas, and of course this must be ad­dressed.

It is not in any child’s favour to be out of school for extended pe­ri­ods. They lose out so much in th­ese for­ma­tive years which his­tory has shown us, they may never learn again.

Re­duc­ing or with­hold­ing child ben­e­fit would not be the best way to go about it, as this would sim­ply lead to fur­ther prob­lems for fam­i­lies who de­pend on it.

Ben­e­fits are the only in­come for some fam­i­lies and they can­not af­ford to be with­out it and even if their judge­ment in al­low­ing days off from school is ques­tion­able, they still need that pay­ment.

Ul­ti­mately the chil­dren would be the ones to suf­fer if any ben­e­fits were cut as a penalty for missed school days.

Ex­ces­sive ab­sen­teeism can­not go unchecked but there must be a more sen­si­ble ap­proach. A sim­i­lar ar­gu­ment came about in re­cent years about the va­lid­ity of means test­ing for chil­dren’s al­lowance.

Op­po­si­tion to means test­ing the pay­ment came about as it is the only pay­ment given di­rectly to a mother for her chil­dren and of­ten as fam­ily cir­cum­stances change, this is a guar­an­teed pay­ment that does not.

Schools are closed more than enough for par­ents to be able to ar­range hol­i­days or other out­ings around th­ese pe­ri­ods and med­i­cal cer­tifi­cates are ac­cepted where ap­pro­pri­ate so any other ab­sence could rightly be ques­tioned by the school.

Per­haps the pow­ers that be be­lieve that the only way to change to mind­set of care­less par­ents who aren’t too wor­ried about at­ten­dance records is to hit them in the pocket.

Chil­dren would ul­ti­mately suf­fer if ben­e­fits are cut as a penalty for missed school days.

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