College calls for non-attendance fines to be scrapped

More than 250 child and adolescent psychiatrists have signed a letter to the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, calling for the suspension of fines for children who don’t attend school.

Responding to the news that fines could be imposed on families who don't send their children back to school in September, child psychiatrists are worried about the impact on children’s mental health, if parents are forced to send them back when they are suffering from anxiety and are asking for a focus on mental health support in schools instead.

Before the pandemic, fines for not having a child in school were £60 if paid within 21 days, and £120 after that. During the health crisis they were, in effect, suspended. Williamson has said that fines would be used as a last resort if parents refused to send their children back.

Dr Bernadka Dubicka, chair of the faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “The threat of fines could force parents of children who feel anxious to send them back to school, even if they’re not ready. This could have serious consequences on their mental health, especially if they are worried about family shielding. Fines could bring more financial stress on families as we’re entering a recession, severely affecting children’s and parents’ mental health.”

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