Government in dark about how parenting orders work

Guidance published last week on an expanded system of parenting
orders and new powers to issue fixed penalty fines to parents,
includes an admission that the government is in the dark about how
existing parenting orders are really working.

New powers are to be introduced for local education authorities
and youth offending teams to apply to the courts for parenting
orders against parents if a child is excluded from school or
thought to be at risk of offending.

Currently parenting orders can only be made when a young person
is convicted of a criminal offence. Schools, local education
authorities, the police and youth offending teams (Yots) will also
be able to fine parents for their children’s truancy or
anti-social behaviour.

Draft guidance from the Home Office on the provisions in the
Anti-Social Behaviour Bill says: “We have little information
about the operation of certain aspects of parenting orders made
under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and to inform our guidance we
would be interested to learn more about experience and suggested

The guidance goes on to appeal for information on how breaches
of parenting orders are currently dealt with, information on what
happens to parents who are subject to more than one order, how many
appeals have been lodged against parenting orders and what the
outcomes were, and the circumstances in which orders have been
discharged or varied by the courts.

Part 3 of the Anti Social Behaviour Bill, which includes the
provisions on penalties for parents, has just finished committee
stage in the House of Lords, and the new powers are expected to be
available by 28 February next year. The consultation on the
guidance is open for 12 weeks from last Friday.

As well as compulsory fines and parenting orders, the Bill
expands the use of parenting contracts for YOTs and schools.
Parenting contracts are voluntary, but if parents refuse to enter
into a contract, the YOTs can apply to court for a parenting

LEAs will also apply to the court for a parenting order if a
child is excluded for serious misbehaviour, but any extra
professional input such as parent training would have to be paid
for by the school or LEA.

Under the new powers, fixed penalty fines of up to £100 can
be issued to parents by school heads, deputies and assistant heads
in cases of truancy, as well as by education welfare officers and
the police.

The Department for Education and Skills says the fines would be
an alternative to prosecution for parents who have failed to
cooperate with more supportive measures, but could also be issued
for a first offence if a truancy sweep detects a child who is
truanting with the parent’s collusion, or when a child is
taken on holiday in term-time without the school’s
permission. Parents who don’t pay the fines within 28 days
will face further fines of up to £1,000.

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