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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 (“the Commission”).
You asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps the Child Support Agency takes to verify declared incomes.
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.
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 legislation provides that the Agency may require information to be provided from a person that has the information or could be reasonably expected to obtain it.
For issues relating to establishing the income of a non-resident parent the Child Support Agency's operational guidance indicates that the necessary information should first be sought from the non-resident parent, on whom there is an onus to provide such information and that they should be allowed sufficient time before an employer is contacted. It is a criminal offence for a non-resident parent to refuse to co-operate with, or to provide false information in response to, this request. Once it is clear that a non-resident parent may not be fully co-operating with the Child Support Agency, an employer will be contacted to allow information to be obtained relating to child maintenance decisions. Prosecution of the non-resident parent for failing to provide information will also be considered.
Should the level of income provided seem inherently improbable as a correct statement of income, or should it be challenged by the parent with care of the child, then additional evidence to verify it may be sought. Child support legislation provides that the following groups - Employers, Companies or partnerships, Accountants, and ‘Deposit Takers' - e.g. banks and building societies - amongst others, are included within those which the Child Support Agency may require information from in relation to the making of decisions relating to child support (this includes requesting verification of a person's income).