Behind the headlines

regular panel comments on a topic in the news.

A mother hit the headlines last month when
she was jailed for failing to ensure her teenage children went to school.
Patricia Amos was given a 60-day sentence and was released last week on appeal after
serving 14 days.

Amos said she saw her daughters like sisters
and allowed them to choose whether or not they attended school. This was
despite many warning letters, court summonses and breaching a parenting order
about her children’s non-attendance. Emma, 15, and Jackie, 13, sporadically
went to Banbury comprehensive school. Out of 190 occasions between last
September and February, Emma attended 55 times and Jackie 64 times.

On her release Amos praised the judge’s
decision to jail her, although she thought her sentence was too long. While in
prison, she said she realised her children’s education was very important. Amos
even advocated the introduction of a sliding scale of punishments, starting
with seven-day sentences. Jackie and Emma said their mother’s imprisonment
brought home how serious the situation was and are now back at school.

chief executive, Counsel and Care
"I agree with the jailing of Patricia Amos and her own comments seem to
prove its effectiveness. I believe parents do have responsibility for their
children and if we break the link between responsibility, actions and
consequences, we will be failing children and reducing their life

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers

"Lock up 10,000 parents and put their children in care where they will
learn real reasons to truant! Thousands of children in care truant because of
the effects of the policies of their corporate parents, the government and
councils. Before the government gets locked up, let’s hope it passes a law to
imprison all parents of children who smoke marijuana. Prince Charles, and some
cabinet members, will then be put in the Tower. The country can then begin a
new epoch of sane and sanguine government."

Karen Warwick, senior practitioner, Barnardo’s
"Mrs Amos’s experience reminds me somewhat of the ‘short sharp shock’
sentences for young offenders in the 1980s – that is a very short-term
deterrent. From reading about Amos’s background it is apparent that she has
multiple needs that a short spell in prison will not have addressed. The media
coverage of her ‘being brought to her senses’ has been splashed all over the
tabloids as well as the broadsheets. There is nothing more pleasing for the
public and the government to see a story of prison being an effective
deterrent. The word ‘naive’ springs to mind."

Julia Ross, social services director and primary care trust chief
executive, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

"Well, it worked! Of course parents are accountable for the behaviour of
their children and clearly Patricia Amos understands that now. That must be
good. I was struck by how she described herself as having behaved as her
children’s sister or aunt. It is interesting her daughters’ views shifted
during her time in prison. I hope this news story will act as a serious
deterrent and we won’t see lots of young mothers going to prison for similar
reasons. What should worry us less is not her time in prison and more the
serious jeopardy to her children’s future from the loss of education."

Bill Badham, programme manager, Children’s Society
"The government and judiciary have cracked it! Patricia Amos says so and
her daughters agree. And haven’t truancy rates declined? What more evidence do
we need? So what’s the magic touch? Forget justice and proportionality.
Scapegoat loan parents. Traumatise children. Ignore the causes. Heard it all
before? Whitelaw’s ‘short sharp shock’ bootcamp regime for youngsters who stole
Mars bars in the 1980s was a human rights outrage. But, hey, so what? It was a
political triumph."

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