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Child Maintenance

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 28th June 2012.

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Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey Conservative, Wirral West

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the powers available to the Child Support Agency to investigate the validity of declared income where income is contested.

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 my hon. Friend with the information requested and I have seen the response.

Letter from Noel Shanahan

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

You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the powers available to the Child Support Agency to investigate the validity of declared income where income is contested.

Child support legislation provides the Commission with wide powers to obtain information from both parents and third parties for the purpose of making decisions relating to child maintenance including those decisions which relate to establishing the income of a non-resident parent. Where income is paid as wages upon which details are routinely held by employers, by the tax authorities, and others; or where income is paid as benefits upon which details are held by the relevant government departments paying the benefits, we are confident of our ability to establish income effectively in the vast majority of cases, and resolve any dispute quickly.

Where a non-resident parent can control the form in which they receive their income, through their role in running a business or acting as a company director, establishing income can be more complex and require greater use of investigative powers. There are also often more intractable disputes between parents about what constitutes a true income figure. We are confident in our ability to deal with such cases effectively, but the greater effort required to collect the information in some of these cases means it can take longer to establish the true income figure and ensure the correct amount of maintenance is flowing to the parent with care of the child.

The legislation relating to the Agency's powers to require information to be provided by certain groups is Section 14, 14A, Schedule 2 of the Child Support Act 1991 and the Child Support (Information) Regulations 2008.

The number of prosecutions under section 14A(2) of the Child Support Act 1991 relating to the misrepresentation of evidence of income (fraud) has increased steadily since 2008.

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