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School Truants Lose Family Benefits

Tuesday 05 July 2011

Family benefits have started to be withheld from parents who fail to ensure that their children attend school.

Since the beginning of the year, 51 families have had their benefits suspended and a further 147 other suspensions are also in progress.

In addition, nearly 30,000 families have received first warnings about the absence of their child from school, and a further 6,000 have received second warnings leading to possible suspension of benefits.

The controversial measure is one that was made law by the government in 2010, and which has been operational since the end of January 2011.

Where a child is now unjustifiably absent for more than four half days in a month, the head teacher must signal their absence to the local education authority, who will then send the first warning letter, followed by a second letter if the problem continues.

On the third occasion, the Inspecteur d'académie will then advise the CAF (Caisse d'Allocations Familiales) to suspend the benefits relating to the child.

The suspension of the benefits is in addition to any other actions that may be taken by the school, such as detention or additional work for the child.

There also remain in place penal sanctions against parents who fail to ensure their child attends school.

In announcing the figures, Luc Chatel, the Minister of Education stated that the law was ‘a measure that was effective, proportionate and preventative.'

His view is not one shared by the vast majority of the teaching profession, who consider that behind the absence from school hides other problems that needed to be addressed.

According to teachers association another problem is that ‘the children do not take any notice of the suspension of benefits, as it is too abstract for them.’

However, for the government, the measure is less to discipline the child, than to ensure parents take a greater level of responsibility in ensuring their children attend school.

The usual framework of social and educational support is also available so that contact is made with the family (if this is not already in place). The mayor is also advised to provide such support as may be available through the commune.

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