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Children: Maintenance

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 27th June 2012.

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Photo of Stephen Lloyd Stephen Lloyd Liberal Democrat, Eastbourne

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission has taken to establish the proportion of cases with outstanding child maintenance arrears where collection of child maintenance has been (a) temporarily and (b) permanently suspended; and what the results were of any such exercise.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is responsible for the child maintenance system. I have asked the Child Maintenance Commissioner to write to the hon. Member with the information requested and I have seen the response.

Letter from Noel Shanahan

In reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, the Secretary of State promised a substantive reply from the Child Maintenance Commissioner.

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission has taken to establish the proportion of cases with outstanding child maintenance arrears where collection of child maintenance has been (a) temporarily and (b) permanently suspended; and what the results were of any such exercise.

The discretion not to pursue a sum of arrears of child maintenance is contained in Section 29 of the Child Support Act 1991. This discretion is exercised in respect of arrears that it is decided will never be collected. This is only in exceptional cases where very particular sets of circumstances, which mean this is the most appropriate course of action available, apply. The power is also exercised on a temporary basis in a much larger number of cases where circumstances mean that collection is not appropriate at a particular juncture. Whenever a decision is made not to collect, either on a temporary or permanent basis, the arrears concerned is put into the category ‘suspended’ on our computer system.

In March 2012, 49% of cases with outstanding maintenance arrears included arrears that have been suspended.

The split between temporary and permanent suspended arrears is available on the data held for the CS2 system, however further work is required to develop a methodology for using the data and to assure the quality of this information.

Further investigation is required to determine if this information is available for cases on the CSCS system. If available we would again need to develop a methodology for using it, and carry out quality assurance.

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