The number of absent parents who are now paying towards the cost of their children through the Child Support Agency (CSA) has hit an all-time high, thanks to tough enforcement rules now in place.
Nearly 9 out of 10 of non-resident parents within the CSA system are now contributing towards child maintenance to support their children, with help from the CSA.
In the past 12 months, the CSA has helped collect and arrange more than £1.2 billion of payments, thanks to tougher enforcement action against parents who previously refused to pay, as well as vastly improved processes.
Last year 184,090 active Deduction from Earnings Orders were in place, taking a total of £330 million directly from wage packets to help pay for the upbringing of children.
Child Maintenance Minister Steve Webb said:
When the coalition came to power in 2010, the CSA was in chaos with huge amounts of money left uncollected and simply not making its way to the children who needed it. This was fundamentally wrong.
We’ve managed to turn this super-tanker around thanks to smarter processes and procedures, and tougher enforcement action against parents who refuse to recognise their responsibilities.
Contributions towards child maintenance in the CSA are now running at an all-time high of 86.5% and I am delighted to see the number of parents who are either not paying as much as they should or nothing at all continues to fall.
It marks an impressive turnaround for the body, which has drawn criticism in the past for the arrears that built up since its inception in 1993. During the worst period, arrears were building up at a rate of £20 million a month.
With the CSA improving, the government is building on this success and is now pushing improvements further with the new Child Maintenance Service.
This replacement organisation for the outgoing CSA is currently being phased in and, for the first time, parents who are able are being given help to manage their own maintenance arrangements without further state intervention.
The arrears strategy for child maintenance makes it clear that collecting arrears where children can still benefit today remains the priority so that these children can enjoy the standard of living they deserve.
The government has also made it clear that there are no plans for a wholesale write-off of CSA debt as old cases are closed.
Better use of enforcement action now includes:
- the number of live Deduction from Earnings Orders reached 184,090 in 2013/14
- last year 660 lump sum deduction orders and 1,055 regular deduction orders were issued, generating a combined £2.4 million
Action available against non-resident parents who refuse to pay towards the upbringing of their children includes:
- applying Deduction from Earnings Orders, whereby employers pass on money to the CSA direct from their employee’s pay packet
- registering a charge against property owned by a parent who refuses to contribute
- using bailiffs to seize possessions
- taking people to court, which could lead to a prison sentence or those found guilty losing their driving licence for up to 2 years
From March, parents who steadfastly refuse to pay may have their non-compliance disclosed to a credit reference agency, which may affect their credit rating, limiting their ability to borrow money through loans, mortgages and credit cards.
The CSA has made significant improvements to performance over recent years, but further improvements are only feasible under the new Child Maintenance Service (CMS), which is why the CSA is currently in the process of being wound down. However, the government remains committed to supporting those parents still using the CSA.
Read more information about the CSA and CMS.
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