Parents Of Truanting Children Could Have Child Benefit Stopped, Michael Gove Suggests

Britain's Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove.
Britain's Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove.

Britain's Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove.

The parents of pupils who play truant from school could have their child benefit stopped, Michael Gove has suggested.

The cabinet minister said the idea was originally considered by the coalition government but was blocked by the Lib Dems.

Speaking at the Onward centre-right think tank, he suggested it could be re-considered as part of a drive to restore “an ethic of responsibility”.

“We need to – particularly after Covid – get back to an absolute rigorous focus on school attendance, on supporting children to be in school,” he said.

“It is often the case that it is truanting or persistent absenteeism that leads to involvement in anti-social behaviour.

“So one of the ideas that we floated in the coalition years, which the Liberal Democrats rejected, is the idea that if children are persistently absent then child benefit should be stopped.

“I think what we do need to do is to think radically about restoring an ethic of responsibility.”

During his speech, Gove also said the “reports of the death of conservatism are greatly exaggerated”.

The general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union hit back at Gove, saying that stopping benefits would do nothing to tackle absenteeism.

Paul Whiteman said: “Not only is this wrong, it is also likely to be counter-productive. It is very hard to see how consigning children to poverty and starvation will improve their school attendance.

“School staff are already deeply concerned by how many children are living in poverty and the impact that has on their academic performance and wellbeing.

“Persistent absence can only be successfully tackled by offering help, not punishment.”