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Children: Maintenance

Department for Work and Pensions written question – answered on 29th October 2019.

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Photo of Martyn Day Martyn Day Scottish National Party, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, for what reason receiving parents were not compensated for the decision to write-off arrears for money they were owed which accrued under the Child Support Agency.

Photo of Martyn Day Martyn Day Scottish National Party, Linlithgow and East Falkirk

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recourse is available to receiving parents whose arrears accrued under the Child Support Agency have been written off.

Photo of Mims Davies Mims Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Writing off some historic Child Support Agency (CSA) arrears was not a quick or easy decision, and involved exhausting other approaches to deal with the debt, including using debt collection agencies without success. Much of the debt that accrued under the CSA is now old and generally uncollectable, and most parents accept this.

It is a long-established principle of the child maintenance system that where non-resident parents do not pay the maintenance they are legally required to pay, the obligation on the government is to do its best to ensure collection – not for the taxpayer to pay the maintenance.

We are making one last attempt to collect the debt, where it is cost effective to do so and there is a reasonable chance of collection. Debts of smaller amounts may be written off as part of the process.

Attempting to collect would have cost around £1.5bn, and would have recovered between £0.1bn and £0.6bn. Had we not written off we would have needed to maintain the debt indefinitely at a cost of £30 million per year.

Addressing these cases will enable us to close the CSA completely and focus on collecting money that will benefit today’s children, and avoid the build-up of arrears in the Child Maintenance Service.

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