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Penny Booth: Does anyone remember child allowance?

Date:16 APR 2012

Penny BoothBlogs are bit like Coronation Street, Eastenders or that haven of Radio 4, The Archers* - you miss it when it isn't there, go for weeks without a particular contribution, but soon catch up, once you get into the swing of things again... we hope...

I read this week that if your child truants from school in the future what little value is left of your child benefit could well be reduced still further. I guess that regular truanting indicates that there are alternative activities in your life that are more attractive than teacher/pupil baiting in school, a few acts of mild criminal damage, hanging round the lavatories, or the prospect of an education that will not value your five GCSEs at grades C and above that highly because there are no jobs for you. I have sympathy, albeit could not agree with missing school.

I imagine that many teachers are only too glad that some pupils are truanting and not making their professional lives (even) more difficult. I am not sure that hitting the child benefit money will do much good - and I know that hitting anything else won't either. Parents will still not have the money (supposed to be spent on the child(ren)) to pay the fine, those who would pay a fine are likely to regard the matter seriously and do something about their child's education, anyway. If education was more highly valued then everyone would want it (perhaps I should add, who could afford it?). I think that threatening the child benefit might make some parents think, but it's not so much the adult parents as the youngster missing school who we want to ‘think'. The only advantage this has is showing Joe Public that the government is willing to target those won't pay fines, but all it is doing is demonstrating the uselessness of fining parents when their children refuse to attend school.

The churches are getting themselves into a spot of hot water and a lot of bother over the issue of marriage for those of the same sex. They aren't alone. It seems that whatever you say or write about this you risk offence.

As a result, I will just comment that the easiest solution to all this would be to have a civil marriage open to any two people currently free and with the capacity to marry to do so in a state-controlled registry upon payment of fee and with the obligations and responsibility of marriage freely undertaken. The state then knows who is married and responsible for whom after successfully completing this compulsory ‘event', recognising a person's ‘legal tie' with another person.

Those who wish to ‘top-up' the civil state process with a religious ceremony with the same person are free to do so at any reasonable wedding ceremony sponsored by any religion they prefer. Religious events like this should be open to those who have already gone through a civil event of marriage.

The marriage is then open to all-comers (subject to regulation) and recognised by the state; the wedding ceremony in a religious place is not compulsory and is largely ‘religious'. The importance of ‘weddings' is retained, the state recognition of the legally-tied couple is a sustainable one. The ‘events' can, if required, be kept separate. So what's wrong with that?

*PS If you've missed The Archers recently, Tony is getting better after his heart problem, Brian is up to his old tricks and the local council's planning meeting is tomorrow - the big milk production factory is up for decision...

Penny Booth is a teaching fellow in family and child law at the University of Manchester Law School. She writes the CPD questions for the Family Law journalCPD.

Contact Penny on Twitter: @Legalbirdie

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.