Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations, has proposed that "parents who fail to ensure their children attend school regularly could have their child benefit payments stopped".
We would argue Gove’s proposal to further penalise parents for their child’s absence from school will disproportionately impact young women we work with who have kids. We have had young women build up charges due to this. They then end up in court with long term debt and must pay back the fees out of already very constrained financial circumstances.
The reasons children aren't getting to school are not addressed by this proposal. For example:
Health issues that aren’t being dealt with (health inequality)
Unsafe areas around the school which make travel unsafe for children, no funds to pay for buses or taxis, no access to cars means that families have to walk to school through unsafe zones
The added financial burden of paying back fines or having benefits stopped, risks making young women further vulnerable to financial abuse and criminal exploitation
Gove’s view that stopping child benefits and issuing fines will stop anti-social behaviour betrays a lack of insight into what truanting may be an indicator of (criminal or sexual exploitation), or that it may be a symptom of trauma occurring elsewhere in their lives, coercive peers, etc.
Punitive policy-making doesn’t address the contextual nature and complexities of young women's and girls' lives.