The Minister in charge of the child maintenance system has promised intensive action against irresponsible parents who have failed to support their children after separation.
It comes as new figures show sharp increases in the use of key enforcement powers against parents who refuse to pay. Deduction Orders - where money is removed directly from debtor’s accounts - have trebled since 2009. Driving disqualifications for non-payment have risen eightfold since 2008.
Child Support Agency data also shows that more than 5,000 past and current CSA cases are over £50,000 in arrears.
Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller:
These shocking figures underline the long- term failure of a system that has let down countless families. We are now taking tougher action against those who have refused to pay. All parents who are still owed CSA arrears can be assured that we will take all reasonable steps to recover this money for them.
Maria Miller continued:
Separated parents can also avoid the conflict that often comes with CSA involvement by making their own, family-based maintenance arrangements whenever possible. We’ve already committed £20 million for developing better co-ordinated local support services to help them do that. It will help the new state child maintenance service to concentrate more effectively on parents who deliberately cheat their children out of financial support.
The Government has also confirmed that it is committed to introducing further enforcement powers for use against parents who refuse to pay, when the time is right. The proposed forthcoming integration of the child maintenance system into the Department for Work and Pensions will ensure full Ministerial accountability for the use of these far-reaching powers.
The CSA Quarterly Summary of Statistics for January to March 2012 shows that 8% of cases with arrears owe between £5,000 and £10,000, 5.5% owe £10,000 to £20,000, 3.3% owe £20,000 to £50,000 and 0.5% owe over £50,000. The figures exclude the 104,000 cases managed off the main computer systems.
The total number of Deduction Orders authorised (both lump sum and regular orders) jumped from 335 in 2009-10 to 1,055 in April 2011-February 2012). Driving disqualifications for refusal to pay have increased from 5 in 2008-2009 to 40 in April 2011 - February 2012. The full statistical release can be viewed here: http://www.childmaintenance.org/en/publications/stats0312.html
The Government announced its plans for overhauling the child maintenance system in a Green Paper published in January 2011. Its latest intentions for reform were published in its response: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2011/strengthening-families.shtml
The Minister for Disabled People laid an Order in Parliament earlier this week to provide for the child maintenance system to go back under direct ministerial control. The Child Support Agency has been an operational division of the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) since November 2008. Subject to Parliamentary approval, CMEC’s functions will be transferred into the Department for Work and Pensions.