Record number of absent parents paying child maintenance

A crackdown on ­absent parents who fail to pay for their children has been hailed a success.

The Child Support Agency (CSA), now the Child Maintenance Service, says that nearly nine out of 10 absent parents registered with them are now making child maintenance payments – leading to a record £1.2billion in payments during the past 12 months.

New figures from the Department of Work and Pensions report the Child Maintenance Service included a total of £330 million directly taken from wage packets to help pay for children’s upbringing.

The much-criticised organisation has borne the brunt of much criticism about its handling of payments since its birth in 1993.

Jubilant minister for child maintenance, Steve Webb, said: “When the coalition came to power in 2010, the CSA was in chaos with huge amounts of money left uncollected and simply not making its way to the children who needed it.

“This was fundamentally wrong. We’ve managed to turn this super-tanker around thanks to smarter processes and procedures, and tougher enforcement action against parents who refuse to recognise their responsibilities.

“Contributions towards child maintenance in the CSA are now running at an all-time high of 86.5 per cent and I am delighted to see the number of parents who are either not paying as much as they should or nothing at all continues to fall.”

He warned that parents who refuse to pay towards the upbringing of their children can expect to face greater enforcement.

These could include having their employer pass on money directly from their wages, a charge against their property, visits from bailiffs or even court action.

The figures emerged as accounts prepared for Parliament by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) class £2.9 billion of the £3.9 billion owed in maintenance arrears as “uncollectable”, according to the BBC..

But the DWP claimed that uncollectable arrears were “a fraction” of £2.9m.

A spokeswoman said: “We do not recognise this figure. Our estimates put uncollectable arrears at a fraction of this sum and we are using new enforcement powers to target non-resident parents who have previously refused to pay the child maintenance they owe.”