1,500 parents in Barking and Dagenham fined for taking children out of school

The councils fines parents in Barking and Dagenham only when asked to by schools. Picture: Ken Mears

The councils fines parents in Barking and Dagenham only when asked to by schools. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

The number of parents hit with £60 fines for pupil absences shot up in Barking and Dagenham last year in response to more calls for action from schools.

Over the course of 2018/19 some 1,555 penalty notices were dished out to parents and carers by the local authority over unauthorised absences.

This was a 24 per cent increase on the previous year and in that time the amount of money the council collected soared 57pc from £48,377 to £75,813.

The use of unauthorised absence fines has soared across the UK, with councils issuing more than 102,000 penalty notices in 2018/19 compared to 82,000 the year before.

For its part Barking and Dagenham Council said the increase was partly due to it having recruited more staff that could issue the notices.

A spokesman added: "We have also improved our process to make issuing of penalty notices more efficient.

"Schools have increased their requests for penalty notices to be issued in response to unauthorised leave of absence and it is important to note the schools instruct the local authority to issue FPNs as it cannot do so issue unless instructed by a school."

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The money the council took in from penalty notices, he added, was ploughed straight back into paying for staff costs and licences to issue more penalty notices.

Figures on penalty notices dished out by Barking and Dagenham Council were collected by training course provider The Knowledge Academy.

In 2018/19 a total of 176 people in the borough did not or could not pay their £60 fine within 21 days, meaning under the law they could then be charged £120.

The council took 127 people to court for non-payment after 28 days but any funds recouped there were kept by the courts.

The spokesman added: "The local authority is bound by law in this regard. Unless there are grounds for the penalty notice to be withdrawn, then the local authority is required to institute further proceedings for all unpaid penalty notices. It is not 'advantageous' in any way for the local authority to take families to court."