New truancy powers flawed by “inadequate” parent support services

Britain’s biggest parent support charity has warned the
government that there are not enough good quality parent support
services in Britain to underpin new parenting contracts and orders
which came into force last week for truancy or school

Schools and local education authorities can now ask parents of
truants and children with behaviour problems to sign parenting
contracts with the school, agreeing to attend parenting

If parents won’t co-operate local education authorities
can apply to magistrates courts for civil parenting orders if a
child has been excluded twice for misbehaviour.

The parent would be required to attend a parenting course or
some other form of counselling or guidance, which could include a
residential programme.

Local authorities and schools will also have powers to issue
fixed penalty fines of £100 to parents whose children miss
school without good reason.

But Parentline Plus which runs a 24 hour government-funded help
line for parents has warned that the current parent support
services are not good enough or extensive enough to meet the
requirements of the new legislation, or to help parents deal with
difficult issues at an earlier stage.

The government is putting the cart before the horse, said a
spokesperson. Many parents cannot access the parent support they
need because provision is patchy and some is of  poor quality.  The
charity says that the “implicitly punitive” measures
risk further alienating parents and create great mistrust between
parents and schools, as well as making extra demands on an
“already stretched and under-resourced service.”

Although powers are available to local education authorities
now, they will be implemented gradually as local operational
guidelines are developed. Parentline Plus is calling for
consultation with parents and guaranteed quality assurance of
services before implementation.

Earlier government-funded research into parenting orders issued
by youth courts found that it was overwhelmingly mothers who were

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