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Child Maintenance and Enforcement Division
Northern Ireland Assembly
2:45 pm

Photo of David Hilditch

David Hilditch (DUP)

7. asked the Minister for Social Development to outline any changes he intends to make to improve the delivery of services offered to clients by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Division. (AQO 1143/11-15)

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Nelson McCausland (DUP)

It is a priority for the division to promote and embed behavioural changes among parents so that they take financial responsibility for their children. To that end, parents are being supported to make their own maintenance arrangements. A media campaign is currently running to promote the child maintenance choices service, which is a free, confidential helpline service to help parents decide the child maintenance arrangements that best suit their needs.

A new statutory child maintenance scheme due to be launched in late 2012 will improve the way in which child maintenance is calculated. It will be a simpler scheme supported by a new computer system, which will take information from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to calculate child maintenance assessments.

My Department has introduced a range of new enforcement powers over the past few years. Those powers improve delivery of services by giving the division new enforcement tools to recover money from non-resident parents who do not fulfil their responsibility to pay child maintenance.

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David Hilditch (DUP)

I thank the Minister for that answer and for the detail of what is coming up in the next few months. Like others in the House, I know that a lot of constituency issues are born out of frustration. What enforcement powers are available to the Department?

Photo of Nelson McCausland

Nelson McCausland (DUP)

There are ways in which money can be recouped from people who have not paid, but I would prefer to answer you more fully on that in due course. We have a range of powers to enable the Department to take firm action to ensure that parents meet their financial responsibilities. They include deduction orders; deduction from earnings orders; liability orders; charges on property; orders for the sale of property; driving licence disqualification; committal to prison; and freezing orders. Therefore, there is a wide range of options.

We can also arrange for deduction of maintenance payments and/or arrears from bank accounts without the need to apply through the courts. Recovery of arrears can also be made from a deceased person’s estate. If you want further information on any of those matters, we can provide that.

Photo of Dominic Bradley

Go raibh maith agat Phriomh-LeasCheann Comhairle. Can we expect the enforcement division to be more active as a result of the changes that the Minister proposes to introduce?

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Nelson McCausland (DUP)

The improvements in the system will facilitate the enforcement that we are talking about.