MIDDLESBOROUGH, England, October 25, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
Stripping parents of much needed cash as punishment for their children's behaviour could lead to the complete disintegration of already fragile family units, warns a senior Teesside University academic.
Dr Raymond Arthur, a Reader in the School of Social Sciences & Law, fears government proposals to penalise parents of truanting children will severely destabilise disadvantaged and vulnerable families.
And, argues Dr Arthur, "knee jerk" reactions - like the call to scrap benefits for those families whose children were involved in last year's riots - is ignoring the root problem and encouraging a blame culture and "shameless" society.
Dr Arthur, who has spent years researching justice for children and families, believes policies should look to strengthen the family and improve parenting skills.
"Demonising parents, like demonising children, will exacerbate a situation that for many parents is already complex and strained," he said.
"In the early years of children's lives the aim should be to strengthen families, enabling them to play a full part in controlling their children's behaviour."
Currently the system of fining parents of truanting children is difficult to enforce as a high percentage of unpaid fines go unprosecuted. The government is considering proposals which would see fines docked directly from benefits.
Figures from the Department for Education suggest that around 43,000 pupils are playing truant from secondary schools in England every day. A link between truancy and offending was noted in the Offending, Crime and Justice Survey which found 62% of truants admitted to offending and/or anti-social behaviour.
Dr Arthur added: "If the government is serious about tackling truancy and youth offending, then rather than threatening parents with financial penalties, resources should be allocated to intervene positively in the lives of young people.
"Not only must the child be attending school, but the experience of school and the extent to which they enjoy school, do well and achieve good results is a significant factor.
"The proposal to take benefits away from families fails to acknowledge a means to tackle the social and familial roots of truancy, crime and disorder.
"To financially punish parents of young offenders could lead to the disintegration of already fragile family units. It will guarantee that families who are amongst the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the country will be penalised, despite the fact that the treatment they will receive is likely to harm them further and compound their problems."
Contact: Gary Martin , Gary.Martin@tees.ac.uk, T: +44(0)1642-342473
SOURCE Teesside University