Support lacking for fining parents over child's truancy

FINING the parents of absentee students will not improve attendance levels and could make the problem worse, Tasmanian Council of Social Services chief executive Tony Reidy has said.

Mr Reidy said a Victorian Government proposal to give the Department of Education power to fine parents $70 for letting their child skip school without a ``valid'' reason would be disastrous for disadvantaged families if implemented in Tasmania.

The proposal targets the parents of students who have already missed five days of school for reasons like shopping trips, visiting family or just plain sleeping in.

Mr Reidy said taking a day off to babysit younger siblings would almost certainly not be considered a ``valid'' reason.

But he said he had already received reports of single parents who are struggling under cuts to the single parenting payment and have had to resort to using their eldest child as a babysitter while they try to find work.

``What must happen in these cases is careful and sensitive case management,'' Mr Reidy said.

``A new system of punishing parents will do nothing to assist these problems.''

Tasmania and Victoria both have the power to fine parents, but in both states the fine must be ordered by the court.

Tasmanian parents who fail to ensure their children attend school can be fined up to $260 a day for up to five days. 

Opposition education spokesman Michael Ferguson said the Victorian proposal was worth considering.

``With 10 per cent of Tasmanian children absent from school every day we need to look at all options to reduce truancy and chronic non-attendance,'' Mr Ferguson said.

A government spokesman said it did not plan to adopt the model.

``Schools have a range of measures to tackle truancy, including directly contacting parents and reminding them of their responsibilities under the Education Act,'' he said.

Tasmanian Parents and Friends president Jenny Eddington said the existing Tasmanian system allowed schools to target problem students while still allowing parents flexibility.


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