The collection of outstanding child maintenance payments is still a major problem for families, with more single parents struggling to obtain the necessary support for their children from absentee parents.
Child maintenance arrears
According to recent figures from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), outstanding child maintenance arrears have increased from £3.802 billion in June 2012 to £3.814 billion in September 20121.
The figures also show that:
- In the quarter to September 2012, the CSA collected or arranged £305.6 million in child maintenance (regular and arrears), of which £28.1 million was arrears.
- In the year to September 2012, the CSA collected or arranged £1,204.5 million in child maintenance (regular and arrears), of which £113.2 million was arrears.
The Child Support Agency
The DWP took over responsibility for the work of the Child Support Agency (CSA) on 1st August 2012. Before this, the CSA was managed by the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission.
As well as changing the child maintenance organisational structure, the Government is also proposing a number of controversial changes to its operation, designed to encourage parents to make their own maintenance arrangements without resorting to a statutory collection scheme.
This new Child Maintenance Service will handle cases where parents cannot make their own arrangements – but it will charge for the service.
As well as a £20 application fee, the parent paying maintenance will pay an additional collection fee of 20% on top of each assessed payment. The parent receiving maintenance will have 7% deducted from each assessed payment.
These proposals have attracted a great deal of criticism, with single parent charity Gingerbread claiming that they will penalise thousands of families who have no choice but to use the statutory scheme.
Current child maintenance figures
The latest figures from DWP regarding child maintenance also show that, in the quarter ending September 2012:
- the CSA live and assessed caseload stood at 1.11 million,
- 80% of all cases in which maintenance was due had either received maintenance via the CSA collection service, or had a maintenance direct arrangement in place,
- maintenance had been collected or arranged by the CSA via the statutory maintenance service on behalf of 899,400 children,
- At the end of September 2012, the average maintenance calculation was £23.60 per week (including zero calculations).
About the author
Guest post courtesy of Austin Lafferty, family law solicitors in Glasgow, East Kilbride & Hamilton in Scotland offering expert legal advice to people and businesses. They have particular expertise with adoption and child cases. Contact Austin Lafferty for free initial advice.