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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 with reference to the proposed Child Support Management of Payments and Arrears (Write off and Part Payment in Full and Final Satisfaction) Amendment Regulations, what estimate the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) has made of the proportion of existing child maintenance arrears to be written off as a result of (a) parents with care making clear they do require the arrears to be collected, (b) the parent with care having died and there being no next of kin, (c) the non-resident parent having died and the arrears not being recoverable from their estate, (d) arrears accrued from Interim Maintenance Assessments calculated between April 1993 and April 1995, (e) the CMEC having already permanently suspended recovery of certain arrears and (f) parents with care agreeing to accept part payment of arrears in full and final satisfaction of arrears owing.

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, with reference to the proposed Child Support Management of Payments and Arrears (Write off and Part Payment in Full and Final Satisfaction) Amendment Regulations, what estimate the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) has made of the proportion of existing child maintenance arrears to be written off as a result of (a) parents with care making clear they do require the arrears to be collected, (b) the parent with care having died and there being no next of kin, (c) the non-resident parent having died and the arrears not being recoverable from their estate, (d) arrears accrued from Interim Maintenance Assessments calculated between April 1993 and. April 1995, (e) the CMEC having already permanently suspended recovery of certain arrears and (f) parents with care agreeing to accept part payment of arrears in full and final satisfaction of arrears owing. the proposed write off power is very limited and could only be used in the circumstances as outlined in the public consultation and as will be set out in proposed regulations.

Around 5% (c. £200m) of existing child maintenance arrears is known to meet criteria b), c), d) and e). The value of arrears meeting criteria a) and f) will only become clear when the powers are in place and the responses of clients are gauged. The amount that will be written off in practice also depends on how the Commission allocates resources. The current focus is on maintaining the compliance of cases with an ongoing liability and the collection of child maintenance arrears where there continues to be a qualifying child. If this current focus continues, the Commission will generally be in contact with older cases less often and this is the group where write off may be most appropriate.

It is children who lose out when parents do not live up to their responsibilities, and we are determined to collect as much debt owed by non-resident parents as possible. We commissioned an independent panel of experts to provide advice to the Government on how we might best tackle the issue of uncollected arrears. We are considering the recommendations and will bring forward a strategy in the coming months.

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