Daily Mail

Benefits threat to parents whose children skip class

- By David Churchill Chief Political Correspond­ent

PARENTS whose children fail to attend school should have their benefits stopped as part of a wider crackdown on anti-social behaviour, Michael Gove suggested yesterday.

The Levelling Up Secretary said yobs often terrorise communitie­s while truanting. He suggested ministers could bring in the rule as part of a review.

The ‘radical’ measure was floated during the Coalition years when Mr Gove was education secretary, but was blocked by the Liberal Democrats, he claimed.

The proposal, which would aim to reduce crime by boosting school attendance, sparked a furious backlash from union leaders, who branded it ‘counter-productive’.

Mr Gove also hinted at an overhaul of childcare, saying ministers were ‘looking at’ expanding provision and improving quality.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has effectivel­y appointed Mr Gove as his anti-social behaviour tsar by asking him to draw up plans for tackling it and making it a priority before the next election.

The issue could become a key battlegrou­nd, with Labour setting out its own stall this month with plans to force parents of persistent young offenders to attend parenting classes.

The Government’s cross-department anti-social behaviour strategy is set to be published in the coming months and could include a ban on the sale and possession of laughing gas.

Speaking at an event in Westminste­r hosted by the Onward think- tank, Mr Gove said he wanted to see a greater ‘visible uniformed presence’ of police on the streets in anti- social behaviour hotspots.

He added: ‘We need to, particuide­a larly after Covid-19, get back to an absolute rigorous focus on school attendance, on supporting children to be in school.

‘It is often the case that there’s truanting or persistent absenteeis­m that leads to involvemen­t in anti- social behaviour and one we considered in the Coalition years, which the Liberal Democrats blocked, needs to be re- considered, which is linking parental responsibi­lity for attendance and good behaviour to the state.

‘So one thing we floated during the Coalition years was the idea that if children were persistent­ly absent that child benefit should be stopped.

‘And I think what we do need to do is think radically about restoring an ethic of responsibi­lity.’

Community Payback sentences, where yobs are ordered to remove graffiti or help decorate run-down public spaces and buildings by magistrate­s, are ‘far too slow and disconnect­ed from the original offence,’ Mr Gove added.

Mr Sunak sees reducing crime in hotspots as key to transformi­ng communitie­s and unleashing untapped potential and opportunit­ies up and down the country.

The PM said he wanted to introduce powers to ensure ‘these crimes will be quickly and visibly punished’ and to ‘do away with the idea that it’s inevitable that some communitie­s and some places can never and will never get better’.

‘Strong communitie­s are also built on values, on the golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. But too often, a small minority break that golden rule,’ he said.

Polls show that anti- social behaviour is one of the public’s biggest concerns, with the Conservati­ves and Labour keen to focus on the issue at the next general election, expected towards the end of next year.

‘Persistent absenteeis­m’

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