Child Maintenance Service ‘neglecting arrears’
A large number of non-resident parents avoid paying, with many disguising their incomes, according to the figures - from August 2013 to August 2015.
According to Gingerbread, the single-parent campaigners, only 52 per cent of separated mothers have any arrangement at all for fathers to pay towards their children. When fathers do make an arrangement, sums are low: the average being £35 a week.
Gingerbread’s Chief Executive, Fiona Weir, said: “These statistics raise questions about how seriously the new CMS is taking the non-payment of maintenance owed to children. With more than half of ‘paying’ parents associated with the maintenance arrears, this is disappointing for a new service where there is a clear government commitment to ensuring that children receive their child maintenance payments on time and in full.”
Gingerbread also said that the figures come against a backdrop where a further £1 billion of child maintenance arrears owed to children in existing Child Support Agency cases are going to be transferred to the CMS over the next three years for collection, raising questions about just how ready the CMS is to take on this load.
In the transition, all CSA cases are being closed and mothers will have to start all over again by applying to the CMS. Many fear the disruption will see fathers stop paying, or the long handover will leave them strapped for months.
It has been revealed only a third of backlog cases with children still young are being “prioritised”. The CMS charges mothers £20 - and if fathers don’t pay, they get their earnings attached plus a 20 per cent extra penalty collection fee. Mothers also get 4 per cent docked off the sum to pay collection costs.
Among the reasons for non-payment are: fear of fathers’ anger if they demand money, some fathers may be genuinely penniless, and in some cases fathers occasionally help out with gifts or small sums, and mothers settle for that.
Fiona Weir added: “We call on the Minister to explain what steps are being taken to ensure that firm and thorough action is being taken to collect the money owed for children and that – when transferred to the CMS – existing CSA debts owed for children are not forgotten. This is money hard-pressed single parent families can’t do without.”
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