To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what factors are taken into account by the Child Support Agency when calculating the repayment of arrears. [This section has been corrected on 30 June 2008, column 6MC — read correction]
Letter from Stephen Geraghty, dated
In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Chief Executive.
You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what factors are taken into account by the Child Support Agency when calculating the repayment of arrears.
There are a number of factors to consider where child maintenance debt is outstanding and the non-resident parent is not able to offer full repayment immediately. Before deciding whether it is appropriate to collect arrears of child maintenance the Agency will consider the welfare of any child likely to be affected by an agreement. There is also a requirement for each parent to make adequate financial provision for their children which is a basic principle of the Child Support Act 1991. The actual negotiation process will establish the relevant facts, request further details where necessary and review representations made by the non-resident parent. The aim is to achieve the best possible agreement on behalf of all parties.
If the Agency cannot secure immediate repayment in full from the non-resident parent, it aims to reach agreements that will see arrears paid back within two years wherever possible. Before forming an opinion about accepting a repayment offer, the Agency will take into account the circumstances of the case and all other relevant considerations.
In some cases where an agreement cannot be reached which takes appropriate account of the welfare of the children affected, the non-resident parent's obligations and other relevant circumstances, it may be necessary to pursue recovery through legal enforcement methods. This is a key feature of the Operational Improvement Plan, launched in April 2006.
The Agency collected or arranged more than £1 billion in maintenance in the twelve months to March 2008, of which £126m was arrears. This is almost twice the £68 million of arrears collected in the year to March 2006 before the full introduction of the Operational Improvement Plan.
I hope you find this answer helpful.