Parents with children being fined for mental health absences

March 18, 2024 - 542 views

Clwyd West MS Darren Millar has called on the Welsh Government to update the School Attendance Code following reports that families are being fined for school absences when children are not in school due to mental health conditions.

Speaking in the Welsh Parliament, Mr. Millar urged the Welsh Government to update the code to ensure that children who suffer with anxiety and other mental health conditions are not penalised when they can't turn up for school.

Calling for a Welsh Government Statement on the matter, he said: “I call for a statement in relation to the School Attendance Code, which I understand hasn't been updated now for over a decade.

“That code determines what is or what isn't an authorised absence in our education system across Wales but it doesn't seem to take sufficient account of children with poor mental health.

“I have a constituent who has been in touch regarding his son, who has problems with anxiety. In spite of the fact that there's a GP letter confirming that anxiety can often be the reason why this young person cannot attend school, absences are being regarded as unauthorised and his family is now facing fines from Conwy County Borough Council; it is completely and wholly inappropriate."

Responding, the Welsh Government's Minister for North Wales, Lesley Griffith MS, told Mr. Millar that “guidance is given to each local authority” regarding the code.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “Once again the Welsh Government are passing the buck to local authorities. They are responsible for the code and should be ensuring that it is being applied appropriately. These families are going through enough without having to pay hefty fines.”