Tuesday 23 January 2018

Benefit cuts for days off would affect kids

By Deborah Coleman - Straight Talking

Straight talking: Deborah Coleman
Straight talking: 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.

Wexford People

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