Child Maintenance System and the Gingerbread campaign November 2016
Thank you for contacting me recently about the child maintenance system and the Gingerbread campaign to improve it and get the Government to act to collect unpaid maintenance.
Child maintenance is, of course, money children are entitled to and a key plank in the fight against poverty. In my patch there are just under 6,000 lone parents with dependent children, families who could be receiving child maintenance support. This coupled with the fact that Nottingham North ranks within the top 10 most deprived constituencies magnifies the need for a more clear and streamlined system for child maintenance payments. I share your concern that parents are now required to pay to use the Child Maintenance Service collection service whilst the evidence on arrears suggests that it is failing to deliver.
As you mention, the Gingerbread 'Maintenance matters' report, launched in the summer, looked at the current performance of the Child Support Agency (CSA) and that of its replacement, the Child Maintenance Service. The report highlighted that arrears across the child support schemes amount to almost £4 billion. I know that following the launch of the report the Government stated that it was considering the report's recommendations, and taking steps to implement powers to recover child maintenance arrears from joint bank accounts. The Government conducted a consultation on this specific measure in the summer.
The House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the Child Maintenance Service and its effectiveness in ensuring regular payments for children, and will consider recommendations to improve the service overall. I know the Chair of this committee has said that the current maintenance system appears to be failing parents in receiving regular payments. I will follow the outcome of this inquiry closely and will bear your views in mind when the Government responds.
Child maintenance is vital in providing children with the essentials, such as food and clothing. With 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK, and over 10,000 in my patch, we cannot stand by while maintenance arrears mount. The Government is failing in its duty to ensure that non-resident parents meet their responsibilities and I will continue to support efforts to press for action.
Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views.