“School attendance is key to educational achievement and ultimately peaceful and productive lives,” says ACT Leader David Seymour. “Truancy, however, has been linked by police to increasingly serious and violent crimes.”
Seymour says that on an average day, 34,000 children are absent without justification representing a truancy rate of 4.5%. He points out that truancy rates are even higher at low-decile schools.
“It is parents’ responsibility to ensure their children are attending school. Too many parents are failing in this responsibility.”
ACT’s youth justice policy would require compulsory parenting classes for parents of persistently truant students. The party would increase the fine for parents of truant children from $15 a day to $50 a day, and increase the maximum fine from $150 to $500. Seymour says these fines will be enforced because they’ll be collected by the IRD instead of the school.
“And because truancy is strongly linked to poverty, we can target it through the welfare system. If a persistently truant child’s parents are receiving a benefit, ACT will put those parents on income management until the child maintains a clean attendance record for two school terms,” says Seymour.
“In other words, that family’s benefit payments will go directly from MSD toward essentials like bills and groceries before leftovers are paid to parents in cash. This ensures benefit payments are used to secure the child’s wellbeing, and provides an extra incentive for parents to enforce attendance.”
ACT would also introduce income management and compulsory parenting classes for parents of children convicted of repeat offences.
“Parents and legal guardians have the primary responsibility for ensuring their kids are in school and not out on the streets committing petty crime. If they fail to teach kids right from wrong, then the government needs to step-in to break the cycle of crime in our neighbourhoods; and that means consequences for the parents of these kids too.”