There is a new scam circulating at the moment and we have receive reports that it is hitting Essex already.
The Counter Fraud Team at Essex County Council were made aware of the problem on Thursday 7th February after a parent of a child at an Essex school received a telephone call claiming to be from the Education Welfare Service.
The con-artist stated that as the child had not attended school the parents had to pay a a fine of £340, and the parent was asked to provide their credit / debit card details over the phone to make payment. There was probably a threat of increased fees if the payment was delayed (unconfirmed, but a common tactic to cause more concern and force people to take action).
You Will Not Get a Phone Call
The Education Welfare Service have confirmed that they will not call parents. They will always write concerning any matter than needs to be dealt with. Parents have an option to pay by phone if they wish. It is this option which may have caused some parents to fool for the scam.
What May You Receive a Penalty Notice For?
To clarify why the education welfare service may fine you, here are the rules (can be found on their website):
It was agreed that the penalty notices would be used under the following circumstances:
- In Education Welfare Service casework, where after a period of supportive intervention, if parents fail to improve school attendance and the absence are unauthorised.
- For parents who remove their children from school for term time holidays.
- For parents of pupils stopped on truancy sweeps.
Penalty Notice Letter
This is an example of how a letter may look (not, subject to change at any time, this is just a guide). Note, this is in response to a request for a child to be taken out of school, and the letter is sent by the Head Teacher:
Essex Code of Conduct Penalty Notices
I refer to your application for *********** to be absent for ********** days for a family holiday.
Following due consideration, I am unable to agree to your request as the reason provided is not considered as a special circumstance.
I am sending a copy of this letter to our Education Welfare Officer for his/her information. I must warn you that, if you do take your child out of school for this time, the absences will not be authorised and the Education Welfare Service may issue a penalty notice to each parent of £50 for each child to be paid within 28 days. If the penalty is not paid within the time scale the penalty will increase to £100. If the higher penalty is not paid the Education Welfare Service will then institute legal proceedings against you in the magistrate’s court under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996 for failing to ensure your child attends school regularly.
The matter will also be recorded on your child/ren’s school record.
If you would like to meet with me to discuss this matter, please contact me to arrange an appointment.
Copy to Education Welfare Officer
Any parent who receives such calls should inform their school and the Essex County Council’s Trading Standards team on 0845 404 0506.