Tuesday, 10 December 2019
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
Education Welfare Service
75. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to provide alternatives to prosecution for parents who fail to ensure their children attend school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51104/19]
The Tusla Education Support Service (TESS) has advised that Educational Welfare Officers (EWO) supported 6,134 students/families during the 2018/2019 school year. The approach adopted by EWO’s is to work in a supportive manner with families to address the underlying issues causing school attendance issues. Of this number there were 175 summonses issued which equates to less than 3% of the cases that EWO’s worked on. This means that in 97% of cases the school attendance concern was addressed without having to prosecute.
The approach is always supportive and the only occasions when legal action is considered is when either: (a) despite supports being offered parents/guardians decline the supports and the school attendance problem persists or (b) the parents refuse to work with the EWO making it necessary to use legal powers.
I am fully supportive of the approach taken by TESS which is always to offer supports and alternatives to prosecution and consider that prosecution is only ever considered where parents decline support and are unwilling to cooperate with an EWO to address the presenting attendance difficulty.