Child Support Agency

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 30th March 2006.

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Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what representations he has received on the impact on child poverty of the failure to collect maintenance payments through the Child Support Agency (CSA); and what immediate plans he has to improve CSA collection mechanisms.

Photo of James Plaskitt James Plaskitt Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

The failure of non-resident parents to face up to their responsibilities and pay maintenance causes real hardship for their children. The Child Support Agency (CSA) does have powers to enforce payment of maintenance but this is an area where the Agency has not been sufficiently effective. The issue of enforcement appears regularly in correspondence we receive from parents and their representatives. Enforcement will be considered by Sir David Henshaw as part of his work to redesign the child support system.

In the shorter term we have announced plans to improve collection of maintenance in the agency's operational improvement plan. The agency will be using deduction from earnings orders earlier and more frequently for those who either default on other payment arrangements or indicate that they are unlikely to pay. The agency will more actively manage higher risk cases to ensure payments are made and make more use of information held by HMRC and credit reference agencies to track down those who owe money for their children.

The CSA will employ external debt collection agencies to recover outstanding debt and use their best practice to improve its own collection activity. Over 600 more staff will be trained and effective within the next year and staffing dedicated to enforcement activity quadrupled over the period of the plan. For those parents who continue to avoid paying maintenance we will significantly increase the number brought before the courts, securing debt through liability orders and seizing of assets where appropriate. We will also work with the media and stakeholders to develop a campaign to make clear that failing to pay maintenance has real and lasting consequences for children.

The cumulative effect of all of these measures will lead to more maintenance being paid and more children lifted out of poverty.

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