Over 250 child and adolescent psychiatrists have signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, calling for the suspension of fines for children who don’t attend school.
The letter comes in response to the news that fines could be imposed on families who don't send their children back to school in September.
Child psychiatrists are worried about the impact on children’s mental health, if parents are forced to send them back when they are suffering from anxiety and are asking for a focus on mental health support in schools instead.
Dear Secretary of State for Education,
Many children and their families in England will be relieved schools will be returning in a few weeks’ time. It’s an opportunity to move forward and feel hopeful about the future.
But for others it could be a cause of significant anxiety.
As child and adolescent psychiatrists, we have seen the devastating impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on the mental health of many young people. This is at a time when the lockdown and social distancing has made it even harder for them to access mental health support.
That is why we are calling on the Government to suspend the threat of fines for parents of children who miss school and instead increase provisions to support the mental health of all children.
The threat of fines could force parents of children who feel anxious to send them back to school even if they’re not ready. This could have serious consequences on their mental health, especially if they are worried about family shielding. Fines could bring more financial stress on families as we’re entering a recession, severely affecting children’s and parents’ mental health.
We want all children to benefit from returning to school but don’t believe that fines are the right way to encourage them.
The risk to children’s physical health from the virus might be relatively low but the risk to their mental health is high if we send them back to school without the right support.
Dr Bernadka Dubicka
Chair of the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry