“Taking legal action against a parent is a very serious matter and there must be a clear view that it will leave the family, and importantly, the child, in a better position,” NEWB chief executive Eddie Ward said yesterday.
The parents will be given school attendance notices (SANs) this week requiring them to send their child to school for a specific time. This is the first step towards legal action against parents who have failed to co-operate with the board’s educational welfare officers.
The maximum sanctions faced by parents successfully prosecuted are a €600 fine and/or up to three months in prison.
“If parents who receive these school attendance notices send their children to school regularly, the legal proceedings will go no further,” Mr Ward said.
Mr Ward said SANs are only issued where the welfare officer feels that parents could do more to uphold their children’s right to an education.
National Parents Council (Primary) chief executive Fionnuala Kilfeather said she was aware the board does not take such action lightly, but she warned against the dangers of heavy punishments.
“Every possible mechanism should be looked at for helping families and children, because if a court orders a parent to pay a fine or go to jail, it’s not going to be helpful,” Ms Kilfeather said.
“Sometimes, even the parents of reasonable teenagers don’t always have full control of their children and the parents’ needs also need to be looked at,” she said.
Ms Kilfeather said the €8 million funding available to the NEWB was not enough to allow it carry out its full welfare service.