Children: Maintenance

Department for Work and Pensions written question – answered on 23rd July 2019.

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Photo of Karin Smyth Karin Smyth Labour, Bristol South

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether her Department has plans to undertake a public consultation on changing the sequence by which deductions from benefits are ordered to ensure that child maintenance payments take priority over debts to private companies.

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Under Universal Credit there is a structured approach to deductions from benefit, which simplifies the current complex arrangements of the legacy system.

The aims of the deductions policy in Universal Credit are to protect vulnerable claimants by providing a last resort repayment method for arrears of essential services, to enforce social obligations and to recover Government debt in a cost effective manner.

Deductions are made following the priority order, which determines the order in which items should be deducted. ‘Last resort’ deductions, such as rent or fuel costs, are at the top of the priority order, ensuring that claimant welfare is prioritised, followed by social obligation deductions, such as child maintenance, and finally benefit debt, such as Social Fund loans and benefit overpayments.

We prioritise the welfare of claimants, as this is the best way to support them and to help them to move towards work and off benefits.

The Deduction Priority Order can be found here (p. 72) - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/683470/benefit-overpayment-recovery-guide.pdf

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